This week I took my dad – a huge James Bond fan – to ‘Fifty Years of Bond Style‘ at the Barbican. The exhibition was incredible value, running across three huge sections full of props, costumes, original storyboards, drawings, scripts and call-sheets. My dad loved seeing the ‘making of’ side to his favourite films, and I absolutely adored seeing the pages of sketches and rough storyboarding from the 60s right up to Casino Royale.
However I was struck instantly that whilst the first room of the show focused on the use of ‘gold’ in Bond – in costumes, as a prized possession, and of course, in the naming of one of the most famous and parodied villains – there was no mention of Ernő Goldfinger, the real-life modernist architect after whom Fleming’s famous bad-guy is named.
The Hungarian architect moved to London in the early 1930s – specifically to Lubetkin’s Highpoint I in Highgate (which sits on the highest point in London – an ideal spot for a future would-be Bond villain if ever there was one). He soon set about proposing the demolition of a row of Victorian cottages adjacent to Hampstead Heath, to make way for his terrace of 3 concrete Modernist houses.
Built in 1938, Ernő Goldfinger’s development at Willow Road was strongly objected to at the planning stage by residents, with fierce opposition coming from neighbour Ian Fleming. When the Goldfinger novel was published in 1959, Ernő allegedly threatened to sue Fleming, but settled for several free copies of the book.
The Goldfinger house at Willow Road is now a National Trust property, and is well worth a visit. One of the first Modernist properties acquired by the Trust, the house contains furniture and children’s toys designed by Goldfinger, and is full of books, drawings, and artwork by some of my 20th Century heroes; Bridget Riley, Max Ernst and Henry Moore.