Charles Holland Architects’ avian installation is the centrepiece of the Folly! season at Fountains Abbey


Charles Lacey, National Trust

‘Polly’, a nine-metre-high tower capped by a rotating head, was designed by Charles Holland Architects for ‘Folly!’ a programme of temporary installations in the grounds of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Gardens, Yorkshire, run by the National Trust. Located on Tent Hill, overlooking the water gardens, “the structure draws on a history of follies and menageries as well as the exotic birds and animals that often populated English landscape gardens”, says Holland. Its faceted form – reminiscent of festive tents – is clad in a plumage of bright-coloured, scallop-edged timber shingles.


With a lens in the swivelling head, the structure acts as a camera obscura, projecting images of the surrounding landscape onto the floor of the interior, and temporarily claiming a view of the ruined abbey that was anticipated – but never achieved – by the garden’s original designer.


The steel-framed structure rests on shallow foundations that avoid disturbing archaeological remains of a temple that once occupied the site.


‘Polly’ will remain in place until 4 November 2018, along with three other temporary installations in the landscape.

‘The Gazing Ball’, by artists Lucy & Jorge Orta, sits at the Banqueting House lawn, where the Rotundo, a classical Ionic temple folly designed as a focus for distant views once stood. It gives reflected views of the water garden. Architect Fleafolly’s ‘Bathing House Listening Tower’ sits where a stone bath house stood until the mid-1800s, opposite the moon ponds of the water garden. The three-metre-tall white tower is topped with a copper water collector, and uses internal trumpets to amplify and transmit the sounds of dripping water. ‘The Cloud’, by competition-winning 11-year-old schoolboy Foster Carter, was inspired by Yorkshire weather.

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