Tag Archives: Modernism

Visit to Victor Pasmore’s Apollo Pavilion in Peterlee, County Durham.

5 Jun

PeterleeLast 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.

The website of the Pavilion

Goodbye 2011 / Stormy weather edition

2 Jan

Just a quick note to express how wonderful it was to visit again the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea on Saturday and say goodbye to 2011, next to the stormy sea and enveloped by the amazing Modernist masterpiece that the Pavilion really is.

Built in 1935 by  Erich Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff it is a supreme demonstration how Modernism can reflect back on both location and function, providing a wonderful backdrop for the seaside views and a flowing space that makes people the main spectacle. The two staircases are beautiful at capturing light and giving a sense of occasion, but it is the movement of the users that activates the space and makes it an ongoing performance.

Beauty, elegance, simplicity.

If you haven’t been, rush to see both the excellent Warhol exhibition (which is free, and do not be put off by the stupid title)

Here is a link to my photo set on Flickr: Click! 

For general information on the Pavilion check it’s Wikipedia entry: Click!

And here’s the link to their website: Click!

Beauty + commercialism and the De La Warr Pavilion

12 Feb
I am an architecture junkie at most times and surely an
important building like the De La Warr Pavilion is a visit to treasure.While visiting the shop it was clear to me that the
merchandise was aimed at the wrong people. They had commissioned quite a few
trendy designers to come up with products that are inspired by the architecture
and reflect back on it.

The main products was a plate and a canvas bag. Unfortunately
while I was browsing books in their shop for 15 mins at least 5 people gasped
at the prices of those two items
. The plate is being sold for £25 and the bag
for £14.50 (http://www.delawarrpavilion.com/shop/peoplewillalwaysneed.htm)
It then dawned on me that the merchandising was aspirational
(with a prominent Alvar Aalto and Iittala display) but it was not acknowledging
the local area and its people.
A large proportion of the population of Bexhill
is pensioners that aspire to retirement by the sea. I do not think that they
would have a large amount of disposable income to spend on merchandise and
surely the prospect of a £25 plate must seem extortionate. To my eyes the
selection in the shop was geared towards a very design conscious urbane
This instance raises the question to who runs artistic and
cultural centres around the UK
and how well they know their local area. I wonder how many members of the administrative
team of the Pavilion have grown up in the area or have resided for long enough
to know what the locals would want.
The Pavilion is a wonderful building that
is clearly very popular with the local community but it seems its
administration is out of touch when it comes to the commercial activities.

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