North London's Cultural Guide

Isokon, Belsize Park: watch this 10-minute short film

TV researcher turned film-maker Sarah Higgs has used lockdown to create a fascinating short history of the iconic building

Like many other locals, I’ve always been a little bit obsessed with the Isokon. When I was growing up, my Dad and I would admire it as we drove past every morning on the school run.

We nicknamed it the Palma building, thinking that this elegant slice of modernist architecture would look more at home on the continent than in the middle of solid, Victorian Belsize Park.

Years later, as a TV researcher stuck at home in the midst of a global pandemic, it caught my eye once again as I drifted by on my daily walks.

How it looked in 1934. Photo: PR

I decided to use my journalistic experience and new-found free time to find out what makes the Isokon so iconic. And that was how this project began.


The first modernist building of its kind in Britain, the Isokon is as remarkable for its architectural style as for those who took up residence there.

From Agatha Christie to Bauhaus by way of a few Soviet spies, I hoped to uncover its secret history as a ‘machine for living’.

Isokon Gallery
Inside the Isokon gallery. Photos: PR

Featuring interviews with current resident Paul Fellerman, intelligence historian Dr David Burke and the Director of the Isokon Gallery Trust, Magnus Englund, this film takes a look inside the Isokon to find out what made it the beating heart of intellectual life in 1930’s Hampstead.

So put the kettle on, and watch it right here:

Follow Sarah on Twitter @sarahhiggs20

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The award-winning print and online title Kentishtowner was founded in 2010 and is part of London Belongs To Me, a citywide network of travel guides for locals. For more info on what we write about and why, see our About section.