National Recording Project

  ..

Detail from: Memorial to 158 Squadron by Peter W. Naylor, 2009

Apollo Pavilion

Summary

Type Sculpture

     Large architectural concrete sculpture divided into two levels of geometric planes. Originally painted white with two ovate shaped murals by Pasmore. (these are barely visible now). Situated in a landscaped area combining grassed verges with small lake, waterfall and viewing platform. Functions as a bridge between two sides of a council estate. Smaller additional reinforced concrete sculpture stands on pillar in the water nearby.The Apollo Pavilion, known locally as Pasmore's Pavilion, is best seen from the road beyond the lake or behind from its viewing platform. The large free-standing architectural structure stands over a small lake between the two sides of a housing estate thus performing the function of a pedestrian bridge. Cast in situ, the asymmetrical form consists of large rectilinear planes of square-edged reinforced concrete. An additional smaller sculpture, a concrete pillar of geometric planes, stands in the water about a metre away from the west elevation. In its original state, it seems that the Pavilion was mostly white, the side elevations were decorated with biomorphic shaped murals and two staircases allowed users to gain access to a first floor platform. Now almost grey, the work's decaying concrete has come adrift in parts leaving steel rods and rust visible. Pasmore's murals are barely visible amid the build-up of graffiti and accretions.
     Erected around thirty years before The Angel of the North, the Apollo Pavilion was the North East's first modern monumentally sized sculpture. Loathed by the majority of local people, its most vociferous opponent- Joan Maslin, a councillor, has described it as 'a heap of dirty, slimy concrete'. In a campaign to have the work demolished she has contacted Prince Charles and Tony Blair for support and written to the Territorial Army requesting that they blow it up. However the work, little-known outside the town's vicinity, has been acclaimed by English Heritage as 'a masterpiece of international importance'. In 1998, on the 50th anniversary of Peterlee and the year of Pasmore's death, English Heritage recommended the sculpture for a grade II* listing. Tony Banks, the Heritage Minister rejected the application and the work may now be demolished.(1) Peterlee, one of twenty-eight new towns built in the post-war period, was designated in 1948.(2) As well as providing housing and employment to ex-miners and their families at a time when coal production was in decline, it was intended that the town would also offer an aesthetically pleasing environment in which to live. A leading proponent of the Modern Movement in Britain, Berthold Lubetkin, was appointed architect-planner of the development scheme.(3) His Corbusian-style, utopian vision for Peterlee, 'a dream of our time', went unrealised. After two years of developing his Master Plan Lubetkin's designs were rejected and, unable to compromise, he resigned his post, later becoming a pig farmer.(4) In 1955, when the buildings of local architects also failed to win the approval of the corporation, the General Manager, A.V. Williams invited Victor Pasmore to design the south west area of Peterlee.(5) The artist accepted and, having collaborated with the Corporation's architects over a period of a decade, produced housing that Pevsner likened to the work of the 1920's De Stijl movement.(6) At the project's completion Pasmore remained with the corporation, imputing design ideas as an advisor. The concept of the pavilion, it seems, arose out of an alliance of two concerns. A.V. Williams was determined to highlight the natural landscape in the urban design of the town. Castle Eden Dene in Sunny Blunts with its natural stream and wooded gorge was chosen for the construction of a lake. It was hoped that an additional feature, such as a large scale sculpture, would emphasise the attraction. This drew a parallel with Pasmore's wishes to construct a 'synthesis of architecture, painting and sculpture'.(7) Whilst no two sources agree on the exact year of the pavilion's construction, from the assimilation of data it can be concluded that the structure was completed between the years 1963-70. It is estimated to have cost £33,000.(8) In the next decade, vandalised by youths and ill-maintained by the council, the pavilion fell into disrepair. Following calls for its demolition, in 1982, Victor Pasmore visited Peterlee, agreeing to meet the complainants on site. He told a crowd of people gathered at the pavilion that he thought the graffiti had 'humanised and improved it more than I could ever have done' and suggested that the solution to the problem would be to blow up neighbouring houses. The apparently good-humoured meeting ended with the conclusion that the demolition of steps would reduce access and therefore its misuse. Accordingly Easington District Council removed the pavilion's staircase and planted shrubs on the first storey.(9)
    

Inscriptions

A plaque appears to have been removed from south-facing wall.

Contributor details

Contributor Role
Pasmore, Victor Artist

Element details

Part of work Material Dimensions
Main body Reinforced concrete, steel, brick, pebbles 640cm high approx x 2500cm long x 1130cm wide
Additional piece situated in water Possibly reinforced concrete, not accessible 200cm high approx x 500cm wide

PMSA recording information

Reference Region
DUEA01 NE
General condition Poor
Surface condition
  • Abrasions, cracks, splits
  • Biological growth
  • Surface spalling, crumbling
  • Metallic staining
  • Coatings
Structural condition
  • Broken, missing parts
  • Water collection
Vandalism
  • Graffiti
  • Surface damage
Road Helford Road
Precise location None
A-Z ref 134 2B
OS ref None

Sorry, we have no precise geographical information for this item.

Date of design None
Year of unveiling c.1963-70
Unveiling details Installed c.1963-70
Commissioned by Peterlee Development Corporation
Duty of care Easington District Council
Listing status Not listed
At risk? AT RISK

‹‹ Back to search results