George Coles (1884-1963) is one the most famous, and certainly most prolific, architects of the Golden age of Cinema building. He grew up in Leyton, East London where his mother ran a sweet shop, and he attended Newport Road School and later Leyton Technical Institute. After beginning a career in architecture, Coles formed a partnership with Percy Henry Adams in 1912. Their company acquired a reputation for their cinema designs, and they produced many designs for Oscar Deutsch’s Odeon chain, as well as numerous other Cinema chains. Most of their designs were built in the Greater London area, but they also appeared in Brighton, Bournemouth, Halifax and Sheffield ,among others.
Two of his most celebrated cinemas are the Gaumont State Kilburn (1937) and Muswell Hill Odeon (1936) both Grade II* listed. These two designs show the range of Coles designs. The Gaumont State cinema has a monumental facade with a central tower finished in cream coloured faience and a lobby that is panelled with green vitrolite. It is a great example of the more is more school of cinema architecture that proliferated in the interwar period.
The Muswell Hill Odeon by contrast takes a more pared down, moderne approach. It has a curved frontage, again clad in cream faience, but without the frills of the Gaumont. This was partly down the opposition of the church across the street to having a cinema so close. The interior was subsequently made to be lavish and luxurious in contrast to the more sombre facade. The cinema design is one of the only remaining interwar cinemas influenced by German Expressionism.
Of the nearly 90 cinemas that Coles designed the vast majority are no longer cinemas, and a significant proportion have been demolished altogether. But some still survive intact to show Coles designs, and we will be tweeting some of these over the next week.