Isokon (1931–1939) By Johnson, Michael
Isokon was a British furniture and architectural design company founded in London in 1931. Led by architect Wells Coates and plywood manufacturer Jack Pritchard, Isokon was among the first systematic attempts to introduce modernist design to Britain. The founders of Isokon were committed to the principles of European Modernism and aimed to create standardized housing and furniture based on modern materials and production processes. In interwar Britain, these designs represented radical new solutions for modern living.
Jack Pritchard joined the Venesta Plywood Company in 1925. At this time plywood was regarded as a cheap substitute for solid wood, but Pritchard was intrigued by its intrinsic properties of lightness, fluidity and strength, and was keen to promote it as a material for modern design. In 1929 he encountered the work of Canadian-born designer Wells Coates, who had recently created innovative plywood factory interiors and shop-fittings for Cresta, a silk manufacturer. Pritchard and Coates founded the firm of Wells Coates and Partners in 1930 to facilitate collaboration. Tensions between the two prompted reorganization, however, and the firm of Isokon Limited was founded on 31 December 1931. The name was derived from the term Isometric Unit Construction, owing to Coates’s preference for isometric drawing.