Where to find Bauhaus architecture in London
Celebrate the centenary of Modernism’s most iconic design movement by touring London's Bauhaus landmarks
Geopolitical upheaval would force the school to transform into a transnational movement as Bauhaus leaders Gropius, László Moholy-Nagy, and Marcel Breuer fled Nazi Germany, seeking refuge in the UK for a brief period in the mid-1930s. They not only brought with them a new language of experimental design, but also utopian visions about new ways of living that would flourish in a fledgling Modernist Britain.
London is littered with landmarks that speak to the enduring legacy of Bauhaus. As the movement turns one hundred this year, why not spend the day touring our edits of the best examples of the city’s Bauhaus-influenced architecture.
The Isokon building (Lawn Road Flats), Hampstead
Take a trip to this leafy corner of London to discover a groundbreaking model of domestic housing. Designed by avant-garde architect Wells Coates, the Isokon building attracted Gropius and Breuer who became residents here in the mid-1930s. They joined Jack Pritchard’s Isokon design company and together they produced furniture, graphic design and architecture that would pioneer the concept of Modernist living in Britain. One need not merely gawk at the Grade I listed structure and wonder what went on behind its concrete walls: the attached Isokon Gallery holds a permanent exhibition which tells the story of the building’s colourful history as a creative nexus, and whose illustrious visitors included Barbara Hepworth, Agatha Christie and a Soviet spy.
Where: Lawn Road, Hampstead, London, NW3 2XD
The Penguin Pool, London Zoo, Regent’s Park
Bauhaus embraced manufactured materials such as concrete and steel. Whilst these might be more readily associated with the urban environment, a trip to London Zoo reveals Bauhaus’s investment in nature. Moholy-Nagy saw ‘nature as a constructional model’, therefore its not surprising that ecologists and Bauhaus émigrés eagerly exchanged ideas in Hampstead’s avant-garde scene. Their aesthetic ideals made a noticeable impression on Julian Huxley, who, during his tenure as secretary of the London Zoological Society, installed Modernist enclosures in the zoo’s menageries. The most famous example is the Penguin Pool created by Berthold Lubetkin’s architectural practice Tecton which was recently restored by Avanti Architects. The intertwined ribbons of concrete are a fitting theatrical stage for the zoo’s most photographed residents.
Where: London, NW1 4RY
Curzon Victoria, Westminster
To celebrate Curzon's rich heritage as an art house haven, in 2014, Afroditi Krassa Studio redesigned the cinema chain's flagship location to create a Bauhaus-inspired ‘cultural hub’ which integrates Modernist furniture and elements of classic cinema iconography into its design. The studio took its cue from Curzon’s 1930’s Bauhaus typography style, Futura, to create a visual identity that was both timeless and classic.
Where: 58 Victoria Street, London, SW1E 6QW
66 Old Church Street, Chelsea
Designed for the politician and playwright Benn Levy by Gropius and Maxwell Fry, this address is famed as Gropius’s only London house and the only large-scale residential project he worked on after fleeing Nazi Germany. When it was finished in 1936, The Times heralded it as one of 'the most advanced buildings in London’. You can catch a glimpse of this Grade II listed building directly from the street.
Where: 66 Old Church Street, Chelsea, London, SW3 6EP
The Barbican Centre
Brutalism was arguably the natural evolution of Bauhaus in the UK. Modernist Britain rose from the rubble during the post-war period as architects wholeheartedly embraced industrial design in the rebuilding of destroyed homes. In introducing the high-rise to London’s skyline, the Barbican’s architects, Peter Chamberlin, Geoffry Powell and Christoph Bon, were deeply influenced by Le Corbusier, whose rejection of the tyranny of ornamentation formed the cornerstone of Bauhaus philosophy. The Barbican's towering flats championed space-saving formats with compact kitchens and bathrooms. Today, residences are integrated within a bustling hub of exhibitions, schools and cultural events. No doubt this utopian vision of communal inner-city living would have pleased Gropius, who wrote one hundred years ago: ‘Together let us desire, conceive, and create the new structure of the future, which will embrace architecture and sculpture and painting in one unity and which will one day rise toward heaven from the hands of a million workers like the crystal symbol of a new faith’.
Where: Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS