The Goldfinger’s Device is a sunken section of the living/work space wall at Lawson Park.
Suggested for Lawson Park by artist Ryan Gander the Goldfinger’s Device was built into the room when the site was remodelled.
Each of the architect Erno Goldfinger’s buildings includes a framed portion that was designed to act as a mood board for use by tenants. Grizedale’s Goldfinger’s Device was installed at Lawson Park to fulfill the same function. It is a display device, a mechanism for developing and showing influences and ideas.
A publication on 2 Willow Road (Goldfinger’s family home designed by him and completed in 1939) describes the device as showing the influence that Surrealism had on Goldfinger’s work: ‘Among the Surrealist devices reflected at Willow Road is the emphasis on framing and openings… The framed screen in the Living Room is a Surrealist device and was used to display a changing collection of the Goldfinger’s pictures’ (Powers, 1996, p.7).
According to Adam Sutherland this is the only place on site that art can be shown. In the functional desert of Lawson Park the Goldfinger’s Device is an oasis of useless decoration.
Erno Goldfinger was the architect responsible for one of the country’s most detested and contested works of modernist architecture, the Trellick Tower, a 31-storey block of flats in North Kensington, London, completed in 1972.
Goldfinger (September 11, 1902 – November 15, 1987) was born in Hungary and moved to the UK in the 1930s where he became an important figure in the modern movement. He was responsible for designing three schools, a university building in Swansea, a number of office buildings (including the Headquarters of the British Communist Party and a building for The Ministry of Health), tower blocks including Balfron Tower and Carradale House (both London), and the family home in Hampstead, 2 Willow Road, which is now owned by The National Trust. Unlike many other European modernist architects who moved to America during World War 2 (Gropius and Breuer for example) Goldfinger stayed in London. Commissions were slow in Britain after the war and by the 1950s a new generation of architects, including Alison and Peter Smithsons, had emerged. Goldfinger did however receive a number of major commissions in Britain, including the Elephant and Castle redevelopment, a five-site project which included housing, shopping centres, offices and leisure spaces.
Although some of Goldfinger’s buildings are now listed and have become rather iconic his work was largely unpopular with the general public in his lifetime and is part of a legacy of twentieth century British modernism or ‘Brutalism’ that has been vilified by the popular press for years. He was seen, after the completion of his 1960s tower blocks, Balfron Tower, Rowlett Street and Trellick Tower, in the early 1970s as ‘a standard bearer of heartless modernism’. This is partly because the high-rise building projects that began life as a modern solution to poor housing in cities were attacked as cold, badly constructed blocks that caused as many social problems as they solved. The complex story of Britain’s relationship with the tower block and the corrupt political histories that surround it is well told in Patrick Wright’s A Journey Through Ruins (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2009).
The myth that author Ian Fleming chose to name one of the villains in his James Bond novels Goldfinger because of his hatred of the architect’s work exemplifies Britain’s ambivalent response to Goldfinger’s buildings.
Alan Powers, 2 Willow Road, London, The National Trust, 1996
Patrick Wright, A Journey Through Ruins, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2009