Advertisements
Robert Goodden London 17 x 17 Men Handkerchief
Robert Goodden London 17 x 17 Men Handkerchief

British architect and designer Robert Yorke Goodden (1909-2002). From 1948 to 1974, he was a professor of silversmithing and jewellery at the Royal College of Art, where he helped to establish a new metal design tradition. Modern British silver has a variety and confidence not seen in Britain since the 18th century, largely thanks to Goodden’s benign influence.

Education

He studied architecture at the Architectural Association in London from 1926 to 1931.

Biography

He was in private practice since 1932. Wallpapers, domestic machine-pressed glassware for Chance Bros., 1953 coronation hangings for Westminster Abbey, gold and silverwares, ceremonial metalwork, glassware for King’s College, Cambridge, 1961 metal-foil murals for the oceanliner Canberra, engraved and sandblasted glass murals for Pilkington. The design of the Western and Oriental sculpture (with R.D. Russell) was among his diverse output.

Wedgwood Orient Line Plate by Robert Goodden
Wedgwood Orient Line Plate by Robert Goodden

Silversmith

He debuted as a silversmith when he won a competition to create a trophy for the Architects’ Golf Society near the end of his schooling at the Architectural Association. He taught jewellery, silversmithing, and industrial glass at the Royal College of Art in London from 1948 to 1971.

Designed Camouflage during WW2

Goodden, like many of his later RCA colleagues, such as Robin Darwin and Hugh Casson, had worked on camouflage during the war. His expertise was in concealing Royal Navy ships and vessels at sea. He was convinced that blue was the most proper camouflage for dealing with the Navy’s wide range of lighting situations. He urged the Admiralty to designate ships to be painted in the strongest, purest blue available as an experiment. Most of the vessels were small, but he was surprised to be presented with the massive heavy cruiser HMS Berwick, a sister ship of HMS Belfast.

Utility Furniture with Gordon Russell

Goodden was a driving force behind the postwar “people’s homes” movement. He was a member of Gordon Russell’s Utility Furniture Committee for a short time before joining Gordon’s brother, RD Russell, in an architectural practice in London. This would be a long and profitable partnership, characteristic of the intimate, male-dominated British design scene at the time.

Post WW2 Design Exhibitions

Britain Can Make It

Goodden worked on Britain Can Make It, the V & A’s first large-scale postwar design exhibition, in 1946. It was a well-received if a little early, a celebration of British manufacturing power and ingenuity. The Sports Hall was Goodden’s contribution. His strange montage of British sporting instincts is still one of my favourite designs.

1951 Festival of Britain

At the 1951 Festival of Britain, his role was even more essential. The Lion & Unicorn Pavilion, one of the largest and most crowded South Bank exhibitions, was co-designed by Goodden and Dick Russell. (As a kid, I recall being jostled around it.) Goodden inspired the title. The contents, which expressed “national character,” complemented Goodden’s charming personality of enquiry, affection, self-deprecating humour, and mild eccentricity to an extraordinary degree.

The chased silver tea set made for the Royal Pavilion and used by George VI and Queen Elizabeth at the exhibition’s opening in May 1951 was Goodden’s other notable contribution. He was personally responsible for the design of the Shakespeare display’s five model theatres, the hanging cartouches carrying passages from beloved works of English literature, the massive rattan canopy (so emblematic of the festival’s design), and the doves’ “freedom flight.” The rhyming couplets etched on all four pieces were written by the designer himself. This one-of-a-kind masterpiece is now in the V&A’s collection.

Unique Commissions

One-of-a-kind commissions continued. He designed the coronation hangings for Westminster Abbey in 1953, which provided a spectacular flowery damask backdrop for Elizabeth II’s coronation. Three years later, Prince Philip ordered a silver electric kettle for the Queen, which he presented to her for Christmas. Goodden was a modernist and a mannerist designer with a keen sense of surface embellishment. However, his objectives and energies were now directed towards his students at the Royal College of Art.

Appointment to RCA

In 1948, Goodden was appointed to the RCA by his old friend Robin Darwin. This was a time of dramatic reorganisation to revive the British manufacturing industry by training design students. Goodden was first offered a position in the Wood, Metal, and Plastics department, but he chose Silver and Glass instead.

He was up against an industry handicapped by a purchase tax rate that started at 100% and an instinctive aversion to modernity. In his inaugural lecture in 1950, Goodden predicted that the metalworking industries might be revolutionised in five years if just a half-dozen new designers could be taught and infiltrated into the industry.

His speech was titled “A Golden Opportunity.” This appeared to be overly hopeful at the time. However, within a decade, more than a half-dozen jewellery and silversmithing graduates had opened their businesses and worked as consultants in the metalworking industry. How did this happen? Partly due to the period’s support mechanisms: substantial commissions from the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths and zealous proselytising by the Council of Industrial Design. Simultaneously, the successful promotion of “Scandinavian modern” had created unexpected demand for elegant “contemporary” stainless steel in postwar Britain.

Inspiration to British Designers

However, it appears unlikely that this transformation would have occurred without Goodden’s imaginative zeal. An early generation of his students, including Robert Welch, Gerald Benney, and David Mellor, testify to his teaching abilities. Keith Tyssen and Keith Redfern, Michael Rowe and Malcolm Appleby, Michael Lloyd, Robert Marsden, and Alistair McCallum were later silversmiths to emerge from the department. John Donald, Jacqueline Mina, Anne Marie Shillito, and Eric Spiller were among the jewellers. There isn’t a metalworker in the United Kingdom who Goodden hasn’t influenced at some point.

Goodden’s nature had an unusual aspect to it. He was proud of his forefathers, who had lived for decades at Barrington Court in Compton, near Yeovil, amid a magnificent collection of oriental porcelain taken from Peking’s Imperial Palace by a 19th-century Robert Goodden.

He spent the last several decades in a lovely Bath townhouse, peacefully surrounded by a lifetime of artefacts and travelling to France with his second wife Lesley every month or two. They were the parents of two sons and two daughters.

Recognition

In 1947, he was appointed as the Royal Designer for Industry. Built the Lion and Unicorn Pavilion for the 1946 ‘Britain Can Make It’ exhibition and parts of the 1951 ‘Festival of Britain’ exhibition (with R.D. Russell).

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

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

More on The Architect Designer

  • The Remarkable Journey of Architect Louis B. Easton

    The Remarkable Journey of Architect Louis B. Easton

    In the early 20th century, Louis B. Easton emerged as a significant figure in American architecture and furniture design. Though never formally registered as an architect, Easton’s contribution to the Arts and Crafts movement was immeasurable. Originating as a vice-principal and manual arts teacher in Illinois, his journey took him to Pasadena, California, where he…


    Learn More โ†’


  • Danish Design Legacy: Lars Mathiesen’s Artistic Journey

    Danish Design Legacy: Lars Mathiesen’s Artistic Journey

    Experience Lars Mathiesen’s enchanting Cafรฉ Table, a harmonious fusion of modern design and classic aesthetics. Explore the captivating allure of this collaborative creation with Fritz Hansen.Read More →


    Learn More โ†’


  • Joseph Emberton: Rediscovering the Visionary Modernist Architect and Designer

    Joseph Emberton: Rediscovering the Visionary Modernist Architect and Designer

    Explore the remarkable legacy of Joseph Emberton, an overlooked yet influential figure in architecture. From iconic structures like the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club to comprehensive design solutions for commercial spaces, Emberton’s impact on Modernist architecture is revealed. Delve into his diverse portfolio, including housing, exhibition buildings, and entertainment architecture. Discover how Emberton’s post-war contributions transformed…


    Learn More โ†’


  • Sigmund Pollitzer (1913 – 1983) British painter, decorative glass designer and writer

    Sigmund Pollitzer (1913 – 1983) British painter, decorative glass designer and writer

    Sigmund Pollitzer (1913 – 1983) was a painter, decorative glass designer, and writer from the United Kingdom. He was born in the city of London.Read More →


    Learn More โ†’


  • Max Ernst Haefeli (1901-1976) – Swiss architect and designer

    Max Ernst Haefeli (1901-1976) – Swiss architect and designer

    Max Ernst Haefeli (1901-1976) was a Swiss architect and designer born in Zurich. He worked in the Otto Bartning studio in Berlin between 1923-24.Read More →


    Learn More โ†’


  • Massimo Morozzi (b. 1941) The Visionary Pioneer of Italian Design

    Massimo Morozzi (b. 1941) The Visionary Pioneer of Italian Design

    He created Archizoom Associati in 1968 with Andrea Branzi, Gilberto Corretti, and Paolo Deganello, which developed industrial and architectural designs and urban planning and was a notable Italian architecture practice until 1972. Read More →


    Learn More โ†’


  • Frederick Gibberd (1908 – 1984), A Pioneer of Modern Architecture in Britain

    Frederick Gibberd (1908 – 1984), A Pioneer of Modern Architecture in Britain

    Sir Frederick Gibberd was a pioneering architect in Britain known for his modernist designs. He played a significant role in the development of the New Town of Harlow and London’s Heathrow Airport. However, his most renowned masterpiece is Liverpool’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, featuring a circular design, minimal decoration, and a striking stained glass cylinder. Gibberd’s…


    Learn More โ†’


  • Giorgina Castiglioni Italian Architect and Designer

    Giorgina Castiglioni Italian Architect and Designer

    Giorgina Castiglioni is an Italian architect and designer who studied architecture at Milan Polytechnic (1969). She is Giannino Castiglioni’s granddaughter, a famous sculptor, and the daughter of Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, an architect and professor. Read More →


    Learn More โ†’


  • Eva Jiricna: Architectural Innovations and Collaborations

    Eva Jiricna: Architectural Innovations and Collaborations

    Eva Jiricna is a renowned architect and designer known for her elegant and innovative creations. From her early career in Prague to establishing her own practice in the UK, Jiricna has left a lasting impact on the industry. Her collaboration with fashion retailer Joseph Ettedgui shaped the iconic matte black style of 1980s London. With…


    Learn More โ†’


  • El Lissitzky (1890 – 1941) Russian artist and architect

    El Lissitzky (1890 – 1941) Russian artist and architect

    El Lissitzky (1890 – 1941) Russian artist and architect, he was linked with MODERNIST organisations, including Suprematism and DE STIJL.Read More →


    Learn More โ†’


  • Franco Deboni (b.1950) Italian architect and glassware designer

    Franco Deboni (b.1950) Italian architect and glassware designer

    He worked for various firms in Italy and Yugoslavia. He received a patent for a bookcase-component system. Clients included Ferro & Lazzarini (glassware) and Italianline. He was best known for his lighting in glass and a mushroom-shaped table lamp in marble; became a member of ADI (Associazione per il Disegno Industriale); was author of Venini…


    Learn More โ†’


  • Gino Valle  (1923 – 2003) Italian architect, designer and town planner

    Gino Valle (1923 – 2003) Italian architect, designer and town planner

    Gino Valle (1923 – 2003) was. Italian architect, designer, and town planner. He was born in Udine. He studied at the Instituto Universitario di Architettura, Venice, to 1948. From 1951, he was at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, Massachusetts.Read More →


    Learn More โ†’


  • Jaromir Krejcar (1895-1949), Czech architect and furniture designer

    Jaromir Krejcar (1895-1949), Czech architect and furniture designer

    From 1922 to its close in 1931, he was a member of the Devรฉtsil group and editor of the compendium Zivot II and journal Disk; in 1922, he worked in the office of architect Josef Gocar. In 1923, he set up his own office in Prague; was the Bauhaus representative in Czechoslovakia. He was a…


    Learn More โ†’


  • British Designer Jack Pritchard (1899 – 1992): A Profile

    British Designer Jack Pritchard (1899 – 1992): A Profile

    Jack Pritchard was one of the most prominent designers in Britain during the 20th century, creating iconic pieces like the bentwood dining table and the Penguin Donkey that can be found in top museums around the world today. Find out more about Jack Pritchard’s life and career by reading this profile of one of Britain’s…


    Learn More โ†’


  • Marcello Piacentini (1881 – 1961) Italy’s Fascist Architect

    Marcello Piacentini (1881 – 1961) Italy’s Fascist Architect

    Marcello Piacentini (1881โ€“1961) was an Italian urban theorist and one of the leading proponents of Italian Fascist architecture.Read More →


    Learn More โ†’


  • Pier Luigi Nervi (Kindle Edition)

    Pier Luigi Nervi (Kindle Edition)

    Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Ada Louise Huxtable wrote this 1960 monograph about the eminent Italian architect and structural engineer Pier Luigi Nervi (1891-1979).Read More →


    Learn More โ†’


  • The Pritzker Architecture Prize: Recognizing Excellence in Architecture

    The Pritzker Architecture Prize: Recognizing Excellence in Architecture

    The Pritzker Architecture Prize recognises a living architect or architects whose built work exemplifies a blend of talent, vision, and dedication that has resulted in significant and coherent contributions to humanity and the built environment through the practice of architecture.Read More →


    Learn More โ†’


  • Frei Otto (1925 – 2015) German Architect designs that soared

    Frei Otto (1925 – 2015) German Architect designs that soared

    The late German architect Frei Otto’s work can be seen all over the world in pavilions and sports stadiums. His impact on the Olympics is huge, from the design of Rio’s Maracana stadium to the tent-like roofs he made for Munich in 1972. He influenced a generation of British architects, including Norman Foster, Michael Hopkins…


    Learn More โ†’


  • Eric Anthony Bagge (1890 – 1970), French architect and designer

    Eric Anthony Bagge (1890 – 1970), French architect and designer

    Eric Anthony Bagge (1890 – 1970) was a French architect and designer. He was born in the town of Antony, near Paris.Read More →


    Learn More โ†’


  • Luca Erba (b. 1984) Italian Designer & Architect

    Luca Erba (b. 1984) Italian Designer & Architect

    He creates projects spanning architecture to decor, interior design, and bespoke collections using thorough territorial, material, and formal research as the cornerstones of his creative process.Read More →


    Learn More โ†’


You may also be interested in

Christian Barman (1898-1980) British industrial designer – Encyclopedia of Design

Christian Barman (1898-1980) was a key first-generation British industrial designer during the interwar years. He is best known for his 1936 electric iron for HMV, which he started designing in 1933. He studied architecture at Liverpool University and ran his practice until Frank Pick invited him to join London Transport as a Publicity Officer in 1935.

David Mellor (1930 – 2009) British metalworker and manufacturer – Encyclopedia of Design

David Mellor was a British artist, maker, craftsman, and retailer who lived from 1930 to 2009. Mellor specialised in metalwork, especially cutlery, and was regarded as one of Britain’s most well-known designers. He also built bus shelters and the traffic light system that is currently in operation throughout the United Kingdom, British Crown Dependencies, and British Overseas Territories.

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.