On this day exactly one year ago, as part of County Durham’s Year of Culture, we transformed Victor Pasmore’s Apollo Pavilion in Peterlee.

Apollo Pavilion: An iconic Brutalist artwork

Originally designed in 1969 by British artist and architect Victor Pasmore, the Apollo Pavilion has become one of the UK’s most famous Brutalist structures. Peterlee was among the first wave of ‘new towns’, built after the War for the mining community. The plans made by the council for this new development of housing were optimistic: “… let us open our eyes and look brightly forward and onward to the new town, the new living . . . Peterlee”  (C.W. Clarke, Farewell Squalor, 1946).

In 1955 abstract artist, Victor Pasmore, who was then teaching at Newcastle University was drafted onto the team to help add an artistic twist to the designs for the Sunny Blunts housing estate. Situated at the heart of Sunny Blunts, the Apollo Pavilion spans across a small lake, providing a pedestrian link between the two halves of the estate. 


Geometric structure on a sunny day, surrounded by gathering of people.
Apollo Pavilion, Victor Pasmore, Peterlee, 1970. Photo courtesy of the Estate of Victor Pasmore

Apollo 50: A public light installation  

In March 2019, thousands joined us on the Sunny Blunts estate to experience Apollo 50, a new artwork by Berlin-based artists, Mader Wiermann, to mark the 50th anniversary of this iconic structure. The installation is an original site-specific design created through 3D modelling using the exact dimensions of Pasmore’s innovative structure. 

Monochrome graphic of geometric shape.
3D model of the Pavilion. Courtesy of the artist, 2019.
UV map (the content for the computer designs). Courtesy of the artist, 2019.

Inspired daring optimism of the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing, which gave Pasmore’s design its name, Apollo 50 temporarily re-shaped the Pavilion over the course of two nights through a video-mapped light sequence in three different phases.

Geometric structure illuminated in pink and green light.
Apollo 50, Mader Wiermann for the Apollo Pavilion, commissioned by Durham County Council, produced by Artichoke. Peterlee, 2019. Photo by Mader Wiermann

The sequence began with monochrome, geometric patterns and splashes of vibrant colour, accompanied by a gentle, undulating soundscape. Sliding seamlessly in and out of the darkness of the night sky, Mader Wiermann’s design highlighted the clean lines of Pasmore’s Bauhaus-inspired structure. Finally, the hypnotic patterns peeled back to reveal the shadow of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module drifting across the facade of the Pavilion.

Geometric structure illuminated monochrome patterns.
Apollo 50, Mader Wiermann for the Apollo Pavilion, commissioned by Durham County Council, produced by Artichoke. Peterlee, 2019. Photo by Mader Wiermann

The response to Apollo 50, in the local area and online through our Instagram and Facebook live-streams was overwhelmingly positive. 

“I can’t find the words to say how I felt about this. It was truly superb. It kind of felt like an ‘at last’ moment for those of us who have always seen the beauty in this stunning piece of art. Thank you for bringing this to Peterlee.”

~ Audience member ~

Watch the full 8-minute sequence of Apollo 50 here: 

Lift Off: An original artwork by East Durham College students

 Apollo 50 marked the beginning of Lift-Off, our year-long education programme in the community of Peterlee in partnership with Guildhall School of Music and Drama’s BA course in Video Design for Live Performance in the lead-up to Lumiere Durham 2019.

A group of students from East Durham College took part in video-mapping master classes led by Guildhall School of Music and Drama. The group developed an understanding of the artistic techniques used by Mader Wiermann and tried their hand at creating their own designs.

Inspired by Apollo 50, the students collaboratively created their own unique artwork to transform Durham University’s Brutalist building, Dunelm House. The artwork, titled Lift Off, was exhibited publicly in November 2019 as part of Lumiere Durham’s 10th anniversary edition.   

Watch the video below to learn more about the project and what it meant to the students who took part: 

Apollo 50 was commissioned by Durham County Council, produced by Artichoke and created by Mader Wiermann as part of County Durham’s Year of Culture. 

Apollo 50 was supported by The German Embassy and Lift Off was supported by The Ragdoll Foundation.