Apollo Pavilion

Sir Antony Gormley

The Apollo Pavilion in 1973 © The Pasmore Estate

“...the Angel would never have happened without the example of the Apollo Pavilion. ”

Antony Gormley
The Apollo Pavilion in 1969 ©Durham Record Office

This concrete structure is a materialised appeal for the integration of art and life. It was built with the sincere faith that a building with no function can nevertheless generate imaginative freedom. It is, for me, a utopian inspiration, and suggests that art can be continually open to the elements and to the viewer, coexisting with and catalysing the living spaces of a community.

Children sitting on the Apollo Pavilion 1973 © The Pasmore Estate.

The Apollo Pavilion was completed in 1969 during a period marked by the success of the NASA space programme, great advances in astronomy, and a new confidence in integrating culture within Britain’s evolving ‘New Towns’. The work boldly uses mass concrete to play with solid and void. Light catches the horizontal and vertical surfaces which are read against sky and water. It could be seen as the first example of sculpture as architecture – a relationship which has been reversed in the last quarter century, with architecture attempting to be sculpture.

The Apollo Pavilion

I celebrate and recognise the ambition and integrity of this work which has not had an easy ride with its immediate community or wider public. I see it as an inspiring early example in this country of an artist being given an opportunity which is both social and artistic. As an artist, Victor Pasmore had the rare skill of being able to understand the topography, geology, and context of a site, while being uncompromisingly modernist in his understanding of form and space.

Victor Pasmore in front of the grafitti-covered Apollo Pavilion © Durham Record Office

It was very much the influence of Pasmore’s utopian vision of a work grounded in community that led me to make the Angel of the North: it was only made possible by involving local skills and the know-how of Newcastle and Sunderland Universities. The Angel would never have happened without the example of the Apollo Pavilion, with all of its associations of the astronaut as the avatar of the of the space age.

“...an architecture and sculpture of purely abstract form through which to walk, in which to linger and on which to play, a free and anonymous monument which, because of it’s independence, can lift the activity and psychology of an urban housing community on to a universal plane”

Victor Pasmore

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