Isokon Symposium

The symposium schedule and speaker biographies and abstracts are available for download here

A pioneer in its approach to materials, marketing, and design, Isokon Ltd was instrumental in introducing functional modernism to England between the wars. Established in 1932 by the progressive entrepreneur Jack Pritchard (1899–1992), it became known for the sleek, ocean-liner-inspired apartment building on Lawn Road in London, designed by Wells Coates (1895–1958) in 1934, and the iconic collection of bent-plywood furniture, much of it designed by Marcel Breuer (1902–1981). Together these endeavors gave form to a radical new way of living and have inspired generations of designers since.

The story of Isokon is the story of multiculturalism and creative exchange among a vibrant, if intimate, modernist milieu in 1930s London. The striking Lawn Road building, nestled in the historic area of Hampstead, was at the epicenter of the avant-garde community and attracted progressive artists, architects, and writers sympathetic to the model of efficient, collective living it exemplified. Among its residents were Bauhaus masters Breuer, Walter Gropius (1883–1969), and László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946), who fled Nazi Germany with Pritchard's assistance and subsequently became the backbone of the Isokon design team.

The small but significant range of furniture produced by Isokon in the 1930s marked a new direction for modernist design that combined the sleek machine aesthetic of the Bauhaus with an organicism particular to British modernism. Made using affordable materials and novel modes of production, this collection embedded Isokon in avant-garde discourse about revolutionary design and its impact on social life.

This online symposium will explore Isokon within the systems of manufacturing, media, and collective living that underpinned modernist practice in the 1930s and consider its global legacy.


To join us for this event, please register here.

Please register here for the keynote conversation. 

A recording of this program will be made available online. Please check back here soon.

Isokon Symposium Program

All times are Eastern Daylight Time.


Thursday, April 20

Keynote Conversation

1–2 pm 

Juliet Kinchin, independent design historian

Magnus Englund, Isokon Gallery Trust

Leyla Daybelge, Isokon Gallery Trust

To join us for the keynote conversation, please register here


Friday, April 21


8:30–8:45 am 

An Isokon Exhibition at the Yale Center for British Art

Rachel Stratton, Yale Center for British Art


8:45–9:25 am

Researching Isokon—Past, Present, Future

Christopher Wilk, Victoria & Albert Museum


Panel 1: The Lawn Road Flats: Before and After

Chair: Alexandra Lange, critic

9:25–9:30 am



9:30–9:50 am 

Isokon in the Antipodes: Best Overend and the “Cairo” Flats

Philip Goad, University of Melbourne


9:50–10:10 am

Before Lawn Road

Elizabeth Darling, Oxford Brookes University


10:10–10:30 am

Roundtable discussion


10:30–10:40 am


Panel 2: The Making and Marketing of Isokon Furniture

Chair: Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen, Yale School of Architecture 

10:40–10:45 am



10:45–11:05 am

Isokon: Prototypes for Cooperation

Jyri Kermik, Estonian Academy of Arts


11:05–11:25 am

Isokon and the Architectural Review: Advertising Modernism to the British Middle Class

Jessica Kelly, London Metropolitan University


11:25–11:45 am

Roundtable discussion


11:45 am – 12:15 pm


Panel 3: The Social Life of Isokon 

Chair: Craig Buckley, Yale School of Architecture and History of Art Department

12:15–12:20 pm



12:20–12:40 pm

The Isobar Club and Avant-gardes in London in the 1930s

Caterina Caputo, Università degli Studi dell'Aquila


12.40–1:00 pm

Dwellings of the World Unite! A Comparison of the Lawn Road Flats and Narkomfin, the Convergent Evolution of “Communal Living” in the Interwar Period

Calvin Po, Dark Matter Labs


1:00–1:20 pm

“Dwelling Minimally”: Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, and László Moholy-Nagy at Isokon in England

Robin Schuldenfrei, Courtauld Institute of Art


1:20–1:45 pm

Roundtable Discussion

Top image
Isokon Flats, Hampstead by Wells Coates 1934, photographed circa 1978 by Kenneth J. Gill (Wikimedia user: Gillfoto), Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0

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