Last month while on holiday in Northumberland we thought it would be a good idea to stop at Peterlee on the way down. Have known the Pavilion from photographs over the years and have read many articles on its precipitous state of preservation and near demolition. After it was finally listed in 2011 it is safe for the future but what really surprised me was the suburban context of the work.
It was made as a public sculpture part of the town planning masterplan of Peterlee new town but it now resides in a sea of dark brick housing of dubious merit or state of preservation/alteration. I can imagine the artistic spacing of the housing units must look gorgeous on a planning map but in reality it is a large swathe of featureless suburbia in the dull garden suburb model.
The Pavilion derives from Pasmore’s reliefs and his biomorphic paintings who were the height of Modernist chic at the time. It can be interpreted as a three-dimensional sculpture and a bridge across a pebble shored lake. It may even earn the odd title of a Modernist folly.
Driving into the rather grubby social housing enclave that is the home of the structure was not my idea of an abstract art pilgrimage but that is what happens with time and when the ideals of a generation have been altered by socio-economic reality. The pavilion looks like a marooned survivor of a past that did not fulfil its destiny, the surrounding housing altered over the intervening years does not complement the structure as envisaged but largely crowds it. Like most 1960s concrete buildings in the UK it seems to be preserved despite its sorry fortunes and local opposition but is also a time warp moment to an era of ambition and the immediate afterglow of the moon landings.
Living in Croydon, I daily go past Lunar and Apollo Houses and admire those vestiges of late 1960s town planning that used Modernism as a metaphor for progress and embraced new construction methods and sculptural forms in large-scale compositions.
Enjoy the slideshow of my shots and allow me to celebrate this utopian structure that defies categorisation.