This controversial piece of art is a rare example of a large-scale experiment in the synthesis of art and architecture in the UK
The structure, which spans a small man-made lake, is made of reinforced concrete, cast on the site. The design comprises large geometric planes of concrete with the only decoration being two painted murals. In its original form, the Pavilion provided a pedestrian link between the two halves of the Sunny Blunts Estate.
Early photographs of the estate reflect the optimistic, cohesive approach to planning undertaken by the artist and architects. The Pavilion was never seen as a stand alone artwork but as an integral part of the estate’s design within the landscape. After 1978, when ownership passed from Peterlee Development Corporation to District of Easington Council, lack of resources to maintain the Pavilion saw it fall into disrepair and become a target for vandalism and anti-social behaviour.
Repairs to remedy defects to housing carried out in the 1980s also paid little heed to the spirit or intent of the original radical designs, and the Pavilion came to look out of place in its surroundings with many believing it to be an eyesore.
The Pavilion’s fate remained in the balance for some years and demolition was considered after one local district councillor, Joan Maslin, mounted a campaign against the work. As a compromise, the local authority agreed in 1985 that the stair access would be removed and the structure used for planting.
In 1998 English Heritage and the Twentieth Century Society recommended the structure be given listed status, however, this failed due to lack of public support.
Anxious to ensure that this only surviving element embodying the idealism of its time lived on, concerned local residents and members of the artistic community formed a steering group in 2002 to ensure its future.
The spotlight was focused on the Apollo Pavilion in 2004 when the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead commissioned Jane and Louise Wilson to make a video installation featuring the structure.
A major step in returning the Apollo Pavilion to its former glory came in 2008 when District of Easington Council was awarded a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the landmark.
Completed in July 2009 this work involved reinstating the feature lighting and staircase allowing access to the upper level, in addition to restoring the two hand-painted murals. The surrounding area has also to been re-cobbled and a reed bed and plants added to the west end of the lake.
Spectre of Demolition
The correspondence and press cuttings below are from a period in the 1980s when excessive graffiti and vandalism led to calls from some of the local residents for the pavilion to be demolished. They help explain the sequence of events that led to the removal of the access stairs to the pavilion interior in 1985. This access has been reinstated as part of the restoration in 2009.
- 30 May 1976 Victor Pasmore to General manager of Peterlee Development Corporation (PDF, 25kb)
- 12 November 1981 Chief Housing Officer Easington District Council to Victor Pasmore (PDF, 22kb)
- 18 November 1981 Director of Marlborough Gallery to Victor Pasmore (PDF, 20kb)
- 19 November 1981 Victor Pasmore to Chief Housing officer, Easington District Council (PDF, 20kb)
- 12 February 1982 (PDF, 22kb)
- 8 April 1982 Minutes of Corporation Meeting (PDF, 46kb)
- 23 April 1982 Victor Pasmore to Peterlee Development Corporation (PDF, 35kb)
- 24 October 1982 Victor Pasmore to Peterlee Development Corporation (PDF, 24kb)
- 27 March 1984 Visctor Pasmore to Peterlee Development Corporation (PDF, 23kb)
- Hartlepool Mail 30/3/1980 (PDF, 24kb)
- East Durham Chronicle 7/8/1981 (PDF, 24kb)
- 9/10/1981 (PDF, 24kb)
- The Journal 9/10/1981 (PDF, 24kb)
- 11/10/1981 (PDF, 24kb)
- 18/11/1981 (PDF, 21kb)
- Peterlee Scene 15/01/1982 (PDF, 23kb)
- Sunderland Echo 13/01/1982 (PDF, 23kb)
- Sunderland Echo 27/01/1982 (PDF, 23kb)
- AD 10/02/2001 (PDF, 23kb)
- Sunderland Echo 26/05/1982 (PDF, 22kb)
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