and we have a double header of Goldfinger below too -
Balfron Tower by Darren Hayman
2 Willow Road by Tim Hopkins
No-one, or at least no-one you can turn up with a lazy google, seems to know for sure why Ian Fleming hated Ernö Goldfinger so much. As a kid I was told that it was because Fleming hated the Balfron (in Poplar, as beautifully illustrated by Darren Hayman here) and the Trellick (in North Kensington): two big concrete housing blocks which stand to the East and West of Central London. I can’t find any evidence to back this up; it was probably just my big brother telling me lies.
Better-informed opinion seems to suggest that Fleming objected to the demolition of some picturesque cottages on Willow Road in Hampstead, to make space for a terrace of three Goldfinger houses just before the second world war. If that’s right, it was a real lapse of taste on Fleming’s part. Those houses (although ten or fifteen years ahead of time) seem to me the epitome of the understated mid-century cool that runs through the best of Bond.
The Goldfinger family moved into number 2 Willow Road, the middle of the terrace. Some of them still live there, though the house has now been partitioned and (I’m delighted to say) the upper portion is open to visitors. It’s a wonderful thing (baby). It’s been a year or two since I last went, but here is a top five of the things which have stuck in my mind:
1) the way the office and the studio on the first floor are one light, airy space but made distinct by one being raised by 18 inches or so, and those 18 inches being beautiful storage
2) the best and simplest bookshelves I’ve ever seen, made from planks, poles and dowling
3) the rooms being put together to allow privacy in rather a small space, but (I think as a result of clever use of light from outside) never feeling cramped or poky
4) TWO small stairwells which meant that people could move about the largely open plan house without disturbing each other
5) the Goldfingers’ art collection, which includes a delightful print but the under-appreciated genius Stanley William Hayter, something which makes me feel especially good because theres one of those hanging behind me in our front room right now.
Go and take a look for yourself, I promise you a treat.
Apparently there’s a third school of thought: that Fleming used the name because he played golf with Ernö's wife’s cousin, a fellow who hated Goldfinger. Haters, eh?
One more slight teaser from the back of my mind: the three buildings mentioned stand north, east and west of central London; Goldfinger's other most famous London building stands South at Elephant and Castle. Now a fancy housing complex called Metro Heights, it was built in the early '60s as NHS office space and bore the name Fleming. Not a tribute to the Bond author, though: the building was named after biologist / pharmacologist Alexander Fleming. I sometimes wonder whether Ernö decided to join in the naming game, but subtly suggest that the penicillin is mightier than the pen...