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Three Contemporary ‘Landscape’ Pavilions for
Cumbria and the Lake District
The Outdoor Gallery | The Canopy | The Adrenalin Tower
An ideas paper for Cumbria Tourism (Cultural Tourism)
Christian Barnes, August 2009
Vista Projects (UK) Ltd.
Christian Barnes Page 1 8/26/2009
Introduction and Background
This initiative started with the idea of refurbishing landscape and constructing ‘pavilions’ at
Thomas West’s Lake District Landscape ‘stations’ following a project called ‘Drop’ devised by artist Steve Messam in 2008. The project has developed a more general desire to engage with the heritage of Picturesque Tourism in the Lake District, the ‘Cultural Tourist’ of today and the notion of ‘Cultural Landscape’.
• Cumbria Tourism has recognised the economic value of finding ways to work with others to invest in the intellectual capital that underpins cultural tourism.
• A World Heritage Site inscription is being sought on the basis that the Lake District is a ‘cultural landscape’. The picturesque and romantic description of the Lake District in art and literature is a key narrative in advancing that case and West’s role in producing a critique of earlier aesthetic narratives and devising a unique system of designated ‘stations’ for ‘seeing’ landscape based on aesthetic principles is of central importance to that argument.
• The Lake District National Park Authority is seeking opportunities to engage with contemporary design and needs an experimental space to explore and test positive contributions to the environment.
Culture in Cumbria and the Lake District John Myerscough writes: ‘Cumbria’s cultural sector stimulates an above-average response in levels of participation and is a major asset for those who live, work in or visit the County.
It achieves an important interaction with tourism, Cumbria’s largest industry, as well as acting as a generator of employment and catalyst for creative enterprise. The cultural sector deservedly excites attention from an economic-development perspective and it can also be a determining factor in what makes places attractive for living and working in and inspiring to visit. But it should not be forgotten that “culture” is a concept which includes the arts within its meaning and addresses the value for individuals of recreation alongside the need for the understanding and enhancement of human existence.’ The Myerscough Report is a picture of arts provision in the county centred broadly on established cultural venues in receipt of public funding. It points to the over-provision of middleclass, middlebrow, wet weather ‘cultural’ recreation/entertainment in the Lake District Steve Messam, Drop, Inflated at Crow Park, Keswick (September) 2008 Christian Barnes Page 2 8/26/2009 from producers which operate in the ‘arts’ and ‘charitable’ rather than in the ‘real’ economy but which are nonetheless making a ‘paid ticket’ offer to a higher proportion of visiting rather than resident consumers and are achieving higher than average levels of income from it that sector more generally by comparison with similar organisations elsewhere.
Mysercough describes the interdependendency between cultural organisations and the tourist economy but doesn’t establish a direct fit with Morris Hargreaves McIntyre’s recent headline finding in their report for Cumbria Tourism regarding the extent to which a younger
demographic is not catered for:
‘Cumbria has a number of real strengths that act as significant attractors for tourists. These brand strengths are focused around the area’s natural environment and its rich heritage.
Cultural tourists are attracted to Cumbria, yet they do not view Cumbria as a place in which to experience contemporary art and performance. Instead they view a trip to Cumbria as an antidote to a metropolitan cultural experience.
Younger adults are largely absent from Cumbria’s cultural tourism base. This important missing market would be attracted to contemporary festivals, arts, live music and outdoor experiences.’ These findings need to inform thinking about how a project deriving from this discussion should be developed.
• The project needs to have universal appeal and not exclude the young.
• The project needs to be in the outdoors.
• The project needs to address the concept of cultural landscape.
• The project needs to build capacity for understanding, engagement and excitement about the built and cultural environment.
• The project should not compete for resources with existing attractions and should offer an element of additionality.
• Part of the project should be bespoke for young people
Background Picturesque Tourism was an activity established in the mid-eighteenth century by aesthetes and connoisseurs and supported by the authors of early travelogues who together created the index of value against which it is now possible to describe the landscape of Cumbria and the Lake District as a cultural asset. The writing of Thomas West distils the content and preoccupations of the early ‘aesthetic guides’ and offers West’s unique invention ‘The Landscape Station’ as a practical tool for the travelling aesthete.
At this time in England a ‘tour’ of the Lakes was to all intents and purposes a scaled down domestic equivalent of the ‘Grand Tour’.
There is a progression from the classical landscape of Claude and Poussin to the Romantic vision of Goethe that can be matched on a provincial and domestic scale with the writings of Gray, Gilpin, West, Wordsworth and Coleridge on the landscapes of the lakes, a ‘wild’ landscape unique in its small scale and sense of enclosure.
Alongside the growing appreciation of this domestic landscape and this same transit between the Classical Picturesque and the Romantic Sublime it is also possible to trace the origins of the landscape conservation movement from landed ownership to the control of statutory bodies between 1800 to the 1950’s in a trajectory that links Wordsworth, the Wordsworth Society which was later to become known as the Lake District Defence Society3, The National Trust and eventually the Lake District National Park.
The central preoccupation of the local landscape conservation movement is the idea that this landscape deserves protection from developments that would damage its ‘special’ character. The recognition of the ‘picturesque’ and ‘romantic’ landscape is one key component of this character but it is in fact no more than a construction of thought that allows value to be assigned to the landscape.
In the recent past this preoccupation has resulted in a perception that the cultural propositions of heritage and the value given to the special character of the area are damaged by contemporary cultural engagement with the environment.
Thomas Rowlandson, Dr Syntax Sketching at the Lake, aquatint, 1819 which in 1934 became the Friends of the Lake District Christian Barnes Page 4 8/26/2009 Landscape Conservation in the Lakes and Cumbria was a cultural project that was initiated and supported by progressive, religious and radical thinkers but, in the late years of the 20th century, was driven by an aspirational concern to ensure that the region remained ‘unspoilt’ and ‘natural’. Landscape conservation became a vehicle for reactionary control and resulted in a ‘correcting’ (restorative) approach to landscape which confused ‘conservatism’ with conservation. The constraints imposed by this thinking have been especially damaging in landscape architecture and architecture which are the art forms of the public realm.
There are as a consequence very few modern and contemporary buildings of merit in the region.
It is possible to regard the landscape and the cultural environment as a palimpsest on which everything that has happened and everything which has been thought of is written and still visible in the underwriting. However the top layer that sits on this cultural foundation needs to express both an appropriate confidence in ourselves and our comfort with the past.
This is the work of creative people. So here is an opportunity to place creativity alongside the challenges now presented to the local economy by ‘sustainable’ tourism, peak oil, peak debt and climate change and see what contribution it can make.
• Landscape architecture and architecture are the art forms of the public realm. The creative part of this project should be centred in this sector.
• New thinking and experiment on the ‘cultural environment’ is required.
• West offers an excellent point of departure.
Thomas West’s Guide and the invention of ‘Landscape Stations’
The term ‘Stations’ can be used as the OED describes and Thomas West meant it to mean:
n., place, building, etc., in which person or thing stands or is placed esp. habitually or for definite purpose (was assigned a station in the valley; took up a convenient station…) West’s ‘Stations’ are generally a suite of lowland views with a table of water occupying the middle ground, water being the principal ‘object’ of the landscape4. The views are composed in his narrative and in accompanying illustrations and do not always correspond to the descriptions given even where the landscape is relatively unchanged over time.
The ‘scenery’ is subject to the manipulation of the author through description and often extensively cross referenced to the opinions of others.
West’s guide for example refers to the observations of other picturesque guides and offers the author’s own critiques and appraisals relative to the earlier descriptions. It is important to understand that the narratives of the early picturesque guides are all descriptive of a spatial and social experience.
I am grateful to Mark Haywood for the description of the water in these scenes as a ‘suture’ around which the elements of foreground and distance can be ‘stitched’ together for dramatic effect.
Christian Barnes Page 5 8/26/2009 These narratives are a cultural invention and they require active interpretation and participation to be understood. West is unique amongst the early guide writers in that he is the inventor of a specific and unique system of landscape viewing rather than an author of narrative and anecdote. However he is one voice amongst a community of ‘landscape connoisseurs’ and it is important that this project should step back from exclusive identification with Thomas West and become more generally rooted within the Picturesque and Romantic discovery and description of the Lake District. From Thomas Rowlandson to Jane Austin there is also a tradition of mockery of picturesque erudition and re-reading the texts today the conceit and self absorption of the authors stands out - there is a very thin line between the sublime and the ridiculous. However it is entertaining to be on either side of this line!
Pavilion Architecture linked to landscape (a typology of building) In architecture a pavilion (from French, "pavillon", from Latin "papilio") has two main significations.
Pavilion may refer to a free-standing structure sited a short distance from a main residence, whose architecture makes it an object of pleasure. Large or small, there is usually a connection with relaxation and pleasure in its intended use. A pavilion built to take advantage of a view is sometimes referred to as a gazebo.5 Such pavilions may be small garden outbuildings, similar to a summer house or a kiosk.
These were particularly popular in the 18th century and can be equated to the Italian casina, usually rendered in English "casino". These often resembled small classical temples and follies sited as an ‘object’ in landscape.
By contrast, a free-standing pavilion can also be a far larger building such as the Royal Pavilion at Brighton, which is in fact a large oriental style palace; however, like its smaller namesakes, the common factor is that it was built for pleasure and relaxation.
Such was the importance attached to the classical past at this time that a number of ‘new’ ruins were created almost as garden ornaments for purely aesthetic reasons!
In more recent times pavilion architecture has offered a platform to their designers to advance experimental ideas. They have generally not been constructed against a proposition of permanence. Their separation from normal commercial work has also led to a tradition of such structures being treated as ‘exhibition’ pieces intended to inspire and engage the public and to explore ideas in architecture.
Such opportunities have traditionally been seized on by designers seeking the opportunity to create a signature work of architecture without the onerous responsibilities associated with a permanent structure. They are capable of moving debate forward and, like the Skylon, living in memory for generations. They can confer on and exchange status with their commissioners and designers.
Relevant contemporary UK examples to consider in relation to this opportunity are the Serpentine Pavilion programme and the Kielder Art and Architecture Programme which is a curated collection of contemporary architectural follies.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pavilion_(structure) Accessed 7/8/2009
3. The period from invitation to installation must be no more than 6 months.
This paper proposes the creation of three pavilions linked to themes in landscape.
There is a requirement to consider the routes to creative expertise taken by those commissioning such projects and suggestions are made as to how to approach appointments in each section.
• The heritage of folly and pavilion making is a relevant context for the creation of new structures exploring the cultural environment.
• The project should have a contemporary signature.
Exemplar programme: Serpentine Pavillion 2009 Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA http://www.architecturefoundation.ie/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/sanaa-serpentine2.jpg
Serpentine Pavillion 2008 Frank Gehry http://www.bustler.net/images/uploads/sanaa_serpentine_2009_02x.jpg http://kimfmdesigns.com/483e_web/project04/frank_gehry/fgimage5.jpg