Docomomo UK: Autumn Talks on Lubetkin and Golfinger

Docomomo UK is organizing an Autumn Talks series taking place in November and December 2021.

Whilst modernism can be said to have started in Europe in the early 20th century, for architecture in UK it was slow in flourishing until after the second world war. During the two decades of the 20’s and 30’s the main energy came from abroad and was linked to ‘avant garde’ art rather than the established architect profession. In this context, the Autumn Talks will focused on four of the architects below who introduced modern architecture to the UK. The purpose of these talks is to explore their work from the point of view of hindsight and subsequent events, because there is so much to learn from them in going forward form where we are today.

Tuesday 23rd November 2021, 19.00-21.00
A talk by JOHN ALLAN

Berthold Lubetkin (1901-1990) is widely regarded as the outstanding modern architect of his generation to practise in England. With his Tecton partnership he produced some of the most innovative and memorable modern buildings of the 1930s, following through with a substantial post-war output. Most of his surviving works are listed. Yet to many he remains a rather mysterious and misunderstood figure, who doesn’t easily fit the conventional categories of Modernist historiography. In this talk his biographer, John Allan who knew Lubetkin for 20 years, explains some of the key themes of his work and expounds on the character of the man himself.

John Allan’s award-winning biography of Lubetkin was first published in 1992 and is now in its 2nd edition reprint. As a practising architect over 45 years and a director of Avanti Architects, Allan has worked on the conservation of many of Lubetkin’s buildings, as well as others of the modern period. He was instrumental in creating the Isokon Gallery in Hampstead, recently winner of the Docomomo International DRAW Award in the Conservation through Activism category, where he is Chairman of the Isokon Gallery Trust.

Wednesday 15th December 2021, 19.00 – 21.00

Erno Goldfinger was an immigrant but not a refugee, from a wealthy background in Hungary but a friend of Harry Pollitt, the Secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain, a central figure the MARS Group but described himself, with his Ecole des Beaux Arts training, as a Classicist – or sometimes as an Arts and Crafts architect. He lived life on his own terms. He loved concrete but wrote and thought most about space. Quantatively most of his work was designed or built in about twelve years from 1956. He left a stunning legacy

James Dunnett trained in architecture at Cambridge and sculpture at St Martin’s. He worked for Erno Goldfinger 1973-75 as his first job, before moving to the London Borough of Camden when work ran out. He started to work on his own account in 1983, the same year as he mounted a retrospective exhibition of Goldfinger’s work at the Architectural Association. With occasional teaching, writing and lecturing he has continued to run his own practice as architect ever since, with an exhibition of his sculpture twice postponed from 2020 to 2022 due to Covid. He was Joint Chair of DOCOMOMO-UK with Dennis Sharp 2002-2010.

Past Talks

Monday 27th September 2021, 18.00 – 20.00
– from Chechnya to Cape Cod via London

Serge Chermayeff (1900-1996) was one of the last survivors of the prominent interwar modernists in Britain.
Remembered chiefly for his partnership with Eric Mendelsohn in London from 1933 to 1936, Chermayeff’s rapid rise as an architect without formal training, and his sudden transition to the USA and a new career in teaching in 1940, leave some questions unanswered, but Alan Powers, who wrote a monograph on him published in 2001, will piece together his life story and show the consistency in his ideas as he expanded his horizon from the single room to the city and region.

Tuesday 19th October 2021, 18.00 -19.30

Wells Coates played a central role in the conceptualisation of a British modernist architecture, and designed some of its most imaginative and innovative buildings and interiors (he also enjoyed a parallel career as an industrial designer of note). This talk will trace Coates’s work and life and follow him from Japan to Canada, to the Western Front in the Great War, to London and then his final years in Canada, where he died in 1958. Discussion will focus on how this peripatetic transnational life informed his modernism, and its impact on the wider architectural culture in 20th-century Britain.

​Elizabeth Darling is Reader in Architectural History in the School of History, Philosophy & Culture, Oxford Brookes University, UK. Her work focuses on gender, space and reform in the 1890s-1940s, and the genesis and nature of English modernism between the wars; and sometimes the intersections between the two. Her work has been published extensively: she is currently working on a book about the design of BBC Broadcasting House (1932), for which Wells Coates designed several studios.