The APCA Education Programme

Peterlee New Town - An Experiment in Total Environment

We have just come to the end of a comprehensive two-year education programme linked to a commission from acclaimed Scottish artist Toby Paterson. Toby also created a major new work that was shown at the DLI Museum and Durham Art Gallery in 2012 and three new pieces for the interiors of the schools and college involved in the workshop programme, providing a lasting legacy for the project.

Two schools, St Bedes RC Comprehensive School and The Academy at Shotton Hall, plus East Durham College took part in the workshop programme. The three form the natural physical boundary of Pasmore's remit as design consultant. The students’ social and physical environment therefore constituted the material of Pasmore’s innovative design approach.

The workshop programme, delivered by Northern Architecture, evolved over the two years both in response to concerns identified by the APCA and the practical impositions of working within the restrictions imposed by the schools’ and college’s timetable and resources.

Northern Architecture successfully engaged with a range of pupils and students, making direct links into national curriculum subjects including art and design, citizenship, geography, history and design technology. The young participants undertook mapping exercises that contextualised the Apollo Pavilion and the housing scheme enabling them to navigate, describe and record their built environment in a creative way. It was of key importance to allow participants the opportunity to enjoy tactile and sensory experiences and to develop their ability to think creatively, experiment with materials and process and develop problem-solving skills

Teachers were supported to use the Apollo Pavilion and the local built environment as a teaching resource by experiencing and working alongside the creative practitioners that delivered workshops to the students. These included RealTyne (John and Karen Topping), Tim Crawford, Helen Donley, Michelle Allen and Vicky Holbrough as well as three practitioners from Northern Architecture.

Participating pupils and students also made a study visit to the David Maljkovic Exhibition at Baltic including researched other artists and practitioners contributing the architecture of the Newcastle Quayside. One group, from The Academy at Shotton Hall, visited and researched Ralph Erskine’s Byker Estate

In October 2012, Northern Architecture supported the Big Draw at Durham Art Gallery with Toby Paterson and ten young people drawn from Durham Gilesgate Sixth Form College, the Academy at Shotton Hall and Durham University.  Toby Paterson brought the main workshop programme to a conclusion with a question and answer session at The Academy at Shotton Hall attended by over 80 participating students plus participating teaching staff and interested tutors.

Toby Paterson’s extremely well-received installation/exhibition at the DLI Museum & Durham Art Gallery occurred at the mid-point of the project. It featured new work by this renowned contemporary artist during his extended period of engagement exploring the built environment of the south-west area of Peterlee.

Every student and pupil involved in year one of the workshop programme had their work represented in the Durham Art Gallery exhibition. Approximately ninety students came along to see their work displayed in Gallery 2 and were welcomed by actor and writer Mark Gatiss, (who comes from Newton Aycliffe, another of the 1960s ‘new towns’). He congratulated the students on their work and talked about the importance of place in creating who we are.

Colin Robson, of Durham County Council’s Arts Team, curated the exhibition and sourced relevant work by Victor Pasmore from Marlborough Fine Art and the Hatton Gallery and secured from John Pasmore a copy of The Image in Search of Itself - A film John made of his father’s working methods. The relationship with the Pasmore estate has been particularly fruitful and John Pasmore has now given a quantity of Victor Pasmore’s personal papers to Durham Record Office.

Among these papers Colin Robson discovered plans by Victor Pasmore for a second unrealised pavilion. This is a new and significant contribution to a study of Pasmores’s work and the development both of his ideas on urban design and the evolution of his prints and paintings.

A separate grant from Arts Council England together with support from APCA enable the video installation Realtimelapse by John Topping that was included in the exhibition.

Toby Paterson also produced three new permanent works for the two schools and the college participating in the project. Each of the three pieces has a relationship with the others, forming in effect a discourse that amounts to more than the sum of each part.

The publication An Experiment in Total Environment: Pasmore and Paterson in Peterlee encapsulates the experiences and achievements of this two-year project and Toby Paterson’s engagement with the landscape of Peterlee. ‘An Experiment in Total Environment’ is a phrase Victor Pasmore used to describe both his approach to urban design at Peterlee and his vision for the New Town.

The book offers both a new insight to the original development of Peterlee New Town and how this was uniquely shaped Victor Pasmore and provides a new perspective on the town seen through the eyes and minds of a contemporary generation.

It features a previously unpublished essay ‘Urban Design as a Problem of Multi-Dimensions’ written by Victor Pasmore in 1970. A supporting commentary from art historian Sam Gathercole is richly illustrated with rare and previously unpublished photographs and working drawings from the Peterlee Development Corporation Archives and the Pasmore Estate. The book also contains an essay by Toby Paterson, providing a personal account of his engagement with and response to Peterlee.  The final section of the book looks at an education programme coordinated by Northern Architecture that developed in parallel with Toby Paterson’s period of study.

The book costs £11.99 (£13.60 inclusive of postage and packing) please email us if you are interested in purchasing a copy.

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