Suite of Erno Goldfinger maps & posters for redesigning postwar London

Erno Goldfinger and Ursula Blackwell, PLANNING YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD for home for work for play. [London: Air Ministry Directorate of Educational Services, 1944.]
20 sequentially-numbered posters mounted on card stock, printed in color and of uniform design, each 19 ¼”h x 14”w. First poster with printed label pasted on. Pin holes in corners for mounting in a display.
$4,500

A spectacular set of Erno Goldfinger designs for the rebuilding of the East End of London after the Second World War.

This set of 20 posters was designed for a popular audience, to be displayed at traveling exhibitions. It lays out in simple terms an argument for planning on a “neighbourhood” model, which seeks to reproduce the benefits of village living in an urban setting.

Following the title poster, numbers 2 and 3 contrast village life, where “homes, work and play are within easy reach of each other in a closely grouped neighborhood,” with town life, marred by a “jumble of houses and jumble of people [and where] the advantage of neighbourliness is lost.” Numbers 4-8 articulate Goldfinger and Blackwell’s core principle that “planning means schools, shops work and recreation within easy reach of our home.” 9-10 discuss different types of homes (houses, flats, and maisonettes), the advantages of each, and the space needed to supply accommodation for families of different sizes. 11-20 depict the implementation of the neighbourhood model in Shoreditch, badly damaged by German bombing during the War, with images highlighting various aspects such as schools, shopping and recreation.

As mentioned above, the posters were intended to be viewed by a popular audience in order to build grassroots support for urban renewal. Hence the bold graphic design, vivid color palette, non-technical language, and above all the use of the pronoun “your,” as in “your neighborhood.” Many among this audience presumably lived in badly-damaged neighborhoods slated to be razed and rebuilt… though whether they would have referred to them as “slums” is debatable.

The designs were by the husband-wife partnership of Hungarian-born architect Erno Goldfinger and Ursula Blackwell. According to the catalog of the British Architectural Library,

“During World War II Goldfinger presented his vision of a post war Britain in a series of exhibitions for the Army Bureau of Current Affairs, called the ABCA exhibitions. They included: Food (1943), Cinema (1943), Health Centres (1945), County of London Plan (1944) and Planning your Kitchen (1944). Some of these were credited to Goldfinger’s wife Ursula.”

Ironically, Erno Goldfinger is today best remembered as a designer of high-rise housing blocks in the “Brutalist” style, intended to help solve Great Britain’s housing crisis after the Second World War. It is worth noting that he was loathed by Ian Fleming, who used him as the model for the rapacious Auric Goldfinger.

The set is bibliographically a bit confusing. On our example the design credits are printed on a strip of blue paper pasted to the base of the title poster, apparently obliterating an earlier version. However, I find what appears to be a bound set at the Royal Institute of British Architects. The title lacks the pasted-on label, but credits Goldfinger, Blackwell et al as usual and states that it was designed for the Air Ministry Directorate of Educational Services. The accompanying catalog record dates the material to 1944, though for some reason two OCLC entries date the set of posters to 1948.

References
Not in COPAC. As of April 2017 OCLC locates examples only at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Columbia and Dartmouth, assigning them a publication date of 1948. I find another holding at the Edinburgh University Library. For a bit of background, see “Erin McKellar Conference Report: Designing Democratic Neighborhoods” on the web site of the Design History Society.

Condition

A little rubbing and dusting, a few corners bumped or slightly dog-eared, but very good or better overall. Portfolio called for in OCLC not present.