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Daniel Hewitt / RIBA Collections

Walking Tour: When Bauhaus met the Hampstead Spies

During their time in London, Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy lived in a building that became the home of the KGB’s finest spy recruiters. Join this expert-led walking tour to find out why NW3 was once called ’the bolshevik colony of Hampstead’.

On a block of flats in North London there is an English Heritage blue plaque which records that the "Pioneers of Modern Design at the Bauhaus lived here". The Isokon Building was the home of Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer and László Moholy-Nagy when they came to London in the 1930s.

Not surprisingly there is no blue plaque marking the fact that it was also the home of the KGB’s top recruiters: the people who signed up spies such as Kim Philby and Klaus Fuchs. As far back as the Russian Revolution the area had become known as "the Bolshevik colony of Hampstead" and by 1942 MI5 believed it was "a district which is well populated with persons of communist type and sympathies".

Spy historian Stewart Purvis has researched MI5’s files and other sources to work out who lived where among the architectural, cultural and espionage elite. His walk includes a visit to the Isokon Gallery where there will be a chance to see what life was like for Gropius, Breuer and Moholy-Nagy.

The meeting point for the tour is at Belsize Park Underground Station on Sunday 20 October at 11am.

Stewart Purvis is the creator of ’The Hampstead Spies’ walk. A former Editor-in-Chief of news producers ITN, he went through the MI5 files of the Cambridge Spies and others finding the names and addresses of suspected KGB men and women across Hampstead.

This event is part of the Beyond Bauhaus – Modernism in Britain 1933-66 exhibition at the RIBA.