Neglected St Peter’s Seminary to become ‘living sculpture’

ONE OF Scotland’s most neglected buildings will be transformed into a “living sculpture” by a sound and light show for a year-long celebration of nation’s best architecture.

St Peter's Seminary will undergo a radical transformation into a 'living sculpture'. Picture: NVA
St Peter's Seminary will undergo a radical transformation into a 'living sculpture'. Picture: NVA

St Peter’s Seminary, the former training centre for priests which is regarded as one of Europe’s ­finest modernist masterpieces, will be opened up for a night-time event marking the 50th anniversary of its creation in an ancient Argyll woodland.

The run-down ruin will be brought back to life by arts company NVA – which has previously staged works at the Old Man of Storr on Skye and Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh – as part of a £1 million Festival of Architecture.

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It is hoped almost 8,000 people will flock to the Hinterland event, which will see audiences follow a lit trail through woodland before entering the ruined seminary building, which has been lying empty since the end of the 1980s after a spell as a drug rehabilitation centre.

A model of St Peter's Seminary. Picture: NVA

The rebirth of St Peter’s in March will see a mix of light projections, artists’ installations and other special effects deployed to transform the remains of the seminary. ­Ticket-holders will also hear a specially-­commissioned choral work performed by a choir from St Andrews University.

It will be the first public event created for the building by NVA, which has been working on a rescue bid for St Peter’s for the last eight years. It plans to unveil its transformation into a £7m arts centre by 2018.

The 600-capacity venue, which NVA has billed as “the most significant arts development for a generation in Scotland”, will eventually host theatre, live music, visual art shows and festivals.

NVA has spent six months on a £500,000 clean-up of St Peter’s, including removing asbestos from the site near Helensburgh, where audiences will be bussed to and from the seminary.

St Peter's Seminary has long been neglected. Picture: Robert Perry

Angus Farquhar, NVA’s creative director, said: “It still feels fresh and it would challenge some of the great buildings going up around the world just now. It still stands as one of the great experimental pieces of 20th century architecture.”

Hinterland, which will feature work by at least ten leading artists and designers, plus composer Rory Boyle, will also open the Festival of Architecture, which will feature more than 400 events across the country.

Highlights of the programme, led by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) during its 100th anniversary year, will include a touring exhibition devoted to the best 100 buildings of the last century.

Architects and designers are to transform garden sheds for an exhibition which will be staged at the botanical gardens in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery will celebrate the nation’s great architects, displaying portraits and busts with images of their creations.

Cities from around the world will create pop-up pavilions for a design expo on The Mound in Edinburgh.

Artists and architects will take over spaces on a specially-­created trail between Stirling Castle and the city centre, while a customised craft will take audiences on journeys along the Caledonian Canal.

An outdoor finale event is planned for Dundee’s new waterfront, where its V&A museum is taking shape.

• Full details of the Festival of Architecture are available at Tickets for Hinterland, which is due to run from 18-27 March, are on sale now via