I don’t often toot my own horn on this blog but last week we put up my exhibition Design for a Modernist Childhood, at 2 Willow Road, Hampstead. This is the rather lovely home of architect Ernő Goldfinger, owned by the National Trust these days.
Goldfinger was an urban modernist. Much of his work is domestic and realistic and feels liveable. 2 Willow Road, in particular, is redolent of the family that lived there.
Researching the exhibition, it was the relationship between Goldfinger and the educationalists Paul and Marjorie Abbatt that interested me most. The Abbatt toy shop, designed by Goldfinger, was more a gallery built at child-height. Full of traditional wooden toys, sourced from all over the world and sharp children’s furniture (like the toy cupboard pictured here) commissioned from Goldfinger.
Goldfinger’s design for the Abbatt shop was beautiful, one of the best examples of Modernist shop design of the 1930s. RIBA has some nice pictures of it, along with most of Goldfinger’s archive. It seems he kept everything: from receipts for the X-ray lamps that lit the shop interior, to sketches of the Abbatt logo he designed. I am pretty sure Goldfinger took his inspiration for the logo – a silhouette of two children – from a Père Castor childrens book Ribambelles I found amongst his belongings. How nice it was to get back to researching amongst primary sources and finding connections like that.
Of course, with any exhibition, the story is as much about what wasn’t included, as what was. Once I’d edited down the content to visitor-sized pieces, the bulk of my research sits in a lever arch file on the shelf, labelled ‘use one day – probably not.’
The exhibition will run for at least a year or two in the nursery at 2 Willow Road.