Isokon and the Bauhaus in Britain
Author(s): Leyla Daybelge & Magnus Englund
Year published: 2019
Publisher Location: London
Total Pages: 240
Illustrations: Illustrated in colour and B&W throughout
In the mid-1930s, three giants of the international Modern movement, Bauhaus professors Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, fled Nazi Germany and sought refuge in Hampstead in the most exciting new apartment block in Britain. The Lawn Road Flats, or Isokon building (as it came to be known), was commissioned by the young visionary couple Jack and Molly Pritchard and designed by aspiring architect Wells Coates. Built in 1934 in response to the question `How do we want to live now?’ it was England’s first modernist apartment building and was hugely influential in pioneering the concept of minimal living.
During the mid-1930s and 1940s its flats, bar and dining club became an extraordinary creative nexus for international artists, writers and thinkers. Jack Pritchard employed Gropius, Breuer and Moholy-Nagy in his newly formed Isokon design company and the furniture, architecture and graphic art the three produced for him and other clients during their brief sojourn in pre-war England helped shape Modern Britain. This book tells the story of the Isokon, from its beginnings to the present day, and fully examines the work, artistic networks and legacy of the Bauhaus artists during their time in Britain.
The tales are not just of design and architecture but war, sex, death, espionage and the infamous dinner parties. Isokon resident Agatha Christie features in the book, as does Charlotte Perriand, working for Le Corbusier’s practice, who Jack Pritchard commissioned for a pavilion design in 1930. The book is beautifully illustrated with archive photography – much of which is previously unseen – and includes the work of photographer and Soviet spy Edith Tudor-Hart, as well as plans and sketches, menus, postcards and letters from the Pritchard family archive.
In Spring 2018, the Isokon building and Breuer, Gropius and Moholy-Nagy were honoured with a Blue Plaque from English Heritage. 2019 marks the centenary of the foundation of the Bauhaus, so the book is a timely celebration of European design.