Angel of the North creator backs campaign to 'protect' Edinburgh sculpture park from green belt housing bid

The creator of The Angel of the North is throwing his weight behind a campaign to "protect" an Edinburgh sculpture park from green belt housing plans.

Antony Gormley's 'Firmament' sculpture is one of the most popular works at Jupiter Artland.
Antony Gormley's 'Firmament' sculpture is one of the most popular works at Jupiter Artland.

Antony Gormley, whose "Firmament" sculpture of a human figure is one of the most popular works of art at Jupiter Artland, has spoken out after the prospect of more than 2000 homes being built on nearby land was described by the attraction as a “significant threat” to its future.

Jupiter Artland’s owners say the construction of a major housing development would “rupture the peace” for visitors and deter artists from creating bespoke work for its natural landscape in future.

Gormley has described the attraction as a "unique and precious resource for the creativity of the future and the imagination of the present.”

Most Popular

    The 70-year-old artist has called for the city council, which has identified five green belt sites for possible housing developments, to instead focus on "inner city brownfield sites."

    Gormley, whose mysterious figures are also a popular attraction along the Water of Leith in Edinburgh, said a future housing blueprint for the city which could see more than 2000 homes built on neighbouring land was completely incompatible with the "open air" museum.

    Jupiter Artland, which has been created on a 100-acre estate in west Edinburgh by art collectors Robert and Nicky Wilson, has attracted more than a million visitors since it opened in 2009. It was shortlisted for the Art Fund’s coveted UK Museum of the Year title in 2016.

    Other artists who have created works include Anish Kapoor, Phyllida Barlow, Charles Jencks, Anish Kapoor, Christian Boltanski, Nathan Coley, Andy Goldsworthy and Jim Lambie.

    Landscape architect Charles Jencks created the 'Cells of Life' garden for Jupiter Artland.

    In an exclusive interview, Gormley said: “What Robert and Nicky have created in Jupiter Artland is such as extraordinary gift, which has been done with such love and intense passion. It deserves to be fought for at every level.

    "The idea that Jupiter Artland’s existence should be compromised by something that is almost the antithesis of what they stand for just seems to me to extraordinarily unjust.

    “There's a brilliant connection there between very brave patronage, the commission of significant and often quite big and difficult works, and a commitment to create education.

    "They are getting young people involved from a very early age with the idea of looking at works of art and then taking that experience and allowing that to be a catalyst for their own creativity. It is so inspiring.

    Antony Gormley and Jupiter Artland founder Nicky WIlson at the sculpture park in Edinburgh.

    "Jupiter Artland is a unique and precious resource for the creativity of the future and the imagination of the present. It is sustained proof of the continuum between nature and culture.”

    Gormley added: “It is essential that green belt sites around cities are protected. They are not just the lungs of the city but the places where the tensions of a city are released.

    "There are other post-industrial landscapes elsewhere in Edinburgh which could be built on.

    "I am horrified by housing policies that, neither from an environmental sense or a design sense, are doing any better than the ‘Wimpey normal.’

    The 66 ft tall Angel of the North is Antony Gormley's best known work of art. Owen Humphreys/PA

    “We should not be building in the countryside: the future of our species depends on high density housing on inner city brownfield sites.”

    Jupiter Artland is urging its supporters to write to senior councillors urging them to drop land at Calderwood from a list of five green belt sites where housing could be allowed over the next decade.

    In a new statement on its website it said: “We take our responsibility to society and to the landscape of Scotland incredibly seriously and we know that being overwhelmed by inappropriate, unsustainable development will leave Jupiter Artland without its most precious asset.”

    A message from the Editor:

    Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

    If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.

    Jupiter Artland has attracted more than a million visitors since it opened to the public in 2009. Picture: Jon Savage

    Joy Yates

    Editorial Director


    Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.