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In recognition of the essential restrictions and measures imposed by the Scottish and UK Governments, we have closed all sites, depots and offices, including the HES Archives and Library, with immediate effect. Read our latest statement on Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Field Visit

Date 9 May 2016 - 11 May 2016

Event ID 1011851

Category Recording

Type Field Visit

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/event/1011851

The ruins of Pollphail industrial village are situated on the east shore of Loch Fyne, 570m south-east of Portavadie marina (Canmore ID 288014). The village was designed by Thomas Smith, Gibb and Pate architects and has been subsequently described as being ‘sadder than a deserted holiday camp’ (Walker 2000, 432). It was built between 1975 and 1977 in order to house workers for an oil platform construction yard, but it was never occupied and began its decline into ruin shortly after completion. It comprises a central three-storey building; a single storey, L-shaped laundry and services building; and 19 outlying accommodation blocks. The central buildings are arranged around a courtyard and provide space over the basement and ground floors- for catering facilities, recreation rooms and administrative offices. A second floor comprises accommodation for staff. The 19 accommodation blocks are arranged in an arc, from the north through west to the south-east of the central building.

The two-storey accommodation blocks are built to a unitary standard and comprise single blocks or up to three conjoined. A stand alone accommodation block at the extreme north-east end of the site was surveyed in detail and the following account describes the specific components. The building is rectangular on plan measuring 13.3m from E to W by 7.5m transversely. It comprises a mono-pitch roof, rendered concrete gables, and slab floors. The external side-walls are timber framed and, where surviving, clad in horizontal timber boards. Each unit incorporates partially covered stairways at either end. The interior of the building is subdivided into two equal portions by a full height, mid-point concrete wall. Other internal partitions include brick walls and plasterboard divisions, although on the date of visit only two of the free-standing, brick walls remained and these appeared not to be pinned to the roof. The building is subdivided to provide a bathroom/toilet facility on each floor and 16 individual bedrooms in total, with storage space under the stairs. Overall, the accommodation, based on this design, could have provided space for over 400 individuals. On the date of visit, the remains of all of the buildings, although roofed, were in a ruinous state.

In 2009, a collective of six artists, Agents of Change, used the village as the canvas for their creative work. The artists in Agents of Change who worked at Pollphail were Stormie Mills, System, Derm, Remi/Rough, Timid and Juice 126. Agents of Change are globally recognised artists and their intervention at Pollphail altered the significance of the village. Over the course of a number of days they created over 75 individual and composite pieces of art, using the surfaces that the abandoned buildings, external and internal walls, and fittings presented. The works ranged from at least 16 haunting figurines in various locations by Stormie Mills to large-scale representations of individuals, such as the actor Kelly MacDonald by System. The works also included linear constructions of text by Derm, abstract forms and text by Remi/Rough, somewhat sinister drip forms by Timid, and bright splashes of colour by Juice 126. They made a short video of their intervention, entitled ‘Ghost Village’, (http://agents-of-change.co.uk/films/).

Partially as a result of the artists’ work, the village has seen an increase in the number of visitors, and additional graffiti art has been created. These more recent pieces appear to respect and complement the existing works. In the case of one example where the original wall render that had been painted had fallen off, Smug has put a piece on the exposed brick wall. On the dates of visit a comprehensive photographic record and a number of site plans were undertaken to record the graffiti art and the buildings. The village was demolished in November 2016, as part of a redevelopment scheme.

Visited by HES (AGCH, ZB, SW) 9-11 May 2016.

People and Organisations

References