Unit One avant-garde group of architects, designers, artists

Paul Nash – Equivalents for the Megaliths 1935

Unit One was a British avant-garde community of architects and fine artists were created by designer, artist, and teacher Paul Nash to encourage Modernism in art and architecture in England. Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, and Ben Nicholson were among the group’s most prominent members, as were the architects’ Wells Coates and Colin Lucas. Their thesis was exhibited at the Mayor Gallery in London in 1934. It was later published in a book edited by Herbert Read, a scholar, historian, and theorist.

“to stand for the expression of a truly contemporary spirit, for that thing which is recognised as peculiarly of today in painting, sculpture and architecture.”

Letter from Paul Nash to the The Times newspaper about Unit One

According to Nash, members of the group were linked by ‘the expression of a truly contemporary spirit which is recognised as peculiarly of today’. Unit One, published by Cassell in 1934, and Circle, published in 1937, were significant in promoting Modernism in Britain in the years leading up to WWII. Unit One’s original plans included design, as well as fine arts and architecture, but these were later dropped.

Unit One disbanded on 1934 as a result of a disagreement among its members over the nature of abstraction, however it marked an important moment in the history of modernism in Britain.


Dormer, P. (1999). The illustrated dictionary of twentieth century designers: the key personalities in design and the applied arts. Greenwich Ed.

Woodham, J. M. (2006). A dictionary of modern design. Oxford University Press.

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