RIBA opens its monumental installation for Hull City of Culture 2017

A Hall for Hull with ‘Trois Points de Vue’ – a joint commission from The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and Hull UK City of Culture 2017 – has been unveiled to the public. The monumental temporary installation has transformed Trinity Square with sixteen galvanized steel columns arranged in a grid formation in front of Hull Minster to form a new outdoor ‘room’ for the city.

Chile-based architects Pezo von Ellrichshausen have collaborated with Swiss artist Felice Varini to create the ambitious structure which responds to the historic heart of Hull and will remain in place until 11 November 2017. It has been commissioned to encourage local people to see their city in new and memorable ways and to become a focal point for national and international tourists.

The installation will provide visitors with a range of different experiences as they enter each of the six-metre-high columns, open to the sky. Perforations across the columns’ frosted-like steel skin creates a delicate interplay of light and shadow across the interiors of each inhabited space. Visual and physical contradictions merge as visitors first encounter a series of imposing, static steel columns from a distance but as they move closer the perforations create as feeling of lightness.

The playful optical illusions continue with the artwork applied by international acclaimed artist Felice Varini. Through his practice of op-art, Varini has created three hand-drawn, delicate artworks across the columns that distort and redefine the otherwise rigid geometry of their solid arrangement, challenging perceptions of perspective and scale in this particular public setting. Each artwork aligns from a different viewpoint across Trinity Square, encouraging visitors to meander through the set of columns, leaving the view of the central axis of the church’s nave untouched.

While the Minster is undergoing extensive renovation work, A Hall for Hull will be brought into active use by the church to host performances, relocating their choir to the outside of the Grade I Listed minster, dating back to 1300. However, A Hall for Hull is a new city room for everyone. It is designed with the hope that residents and community groups within and beyond Hull will activate the space for multiple purposes beyond the imagination of the artists.  The steel was galvanised by Hull company Wedge Group, ensuring the local community are involved in a variety of different ways.

Although both Pezo von Ellrichshausen and Felice Varini have previously exhibited in London, this is the first time they have developed an artwork jointly. The practice of Pezo von Ellrichshausen that oscillates between art and architecture, embedded in land-art and often located in rural conditions, forms a complimentary relationship with Varini’s op-art practice with the majority of his artworks situated within and upon the urban fabric. This combination here serves to redefine and activate multiple perspectives of a historically-charged public square through a series of experiences as visitors walk around the installation.

Architects Mauricio Pezo & Sofia von Ellrichshausen said: “This installation forms a temporary hypostyle room without a roof, with massive but almost immaterial columns barely open to the sky and to the immediate surroundings. The empty stone-paved square is challenged by the size and disposition of a regular open grid and each column (two metres wide and six metres high) is in fact an inhabitable room with a single entrance pointed to a different direction. The silent vibration of glimmering lights and shadows, together with the very indifference of the grid, is altered by three delicate motives drawn in the air by Swiss artist Felice Varini, which can only be seen towards precise vanishing points.”

The Vicar of Hull Minster, the Rev Canon Dr Neal Barnes, said: “This striking, interactive art installation, which is already getting people talking, will be a very different sight and experience and is sure to bring thousands of visitors into the heart of the Old Town. We’re certainly looking forward to welcoming visitors drawn by this spectacular installation through the doors of the Minster to enjoy more magnificent sights and see the exciting transformation taking place under our development project. A Hall for Hull illustrates the opportunities presented by the creation of a stunning, uninterrupted public space in Trinity Square, reuniting the church and the city. Trinity Square is now the perfect place for a work of this scale which promotes Hull as an ambitious, creative city, emboldened by City of Culture.”

The project, supported by the British Council, has been developed through an invited competition for an architectural and artistic collaboration, with a brief to create a temporary intervention designed specifically for the square. Hull 2017 and RIBA have been working closely with Hull Minster to develop the project. The built structure opened on 2 October 2017, as part of the fourth season of Hull’s City of Culture year, entitled ‘Tell the World’.

Marie Bak Mortensen, RIBA Head of Exhibitions, said:

“Pezo von Ellrichshausen and Felice Varini have developed an exceptional proposal; one where Varini’s abstracted art applied to architectural space aligns with Pezo von Ellrichshausen’s practice of monumental architecture – carefully considered to the scale of Hull Minster and its surrounding square. A Hall for Hull effortlessly fulfils the commission’s aim to push the boundaries of how we observe art, architecture and public spaces and to facilitate unique experiences for residents and newcomers to the city. I look forward to seeing this installation unfold in-situ as RIBA takes its programme outside its dedicated gallery spaces in London and Liverpool.”

Pezo von Ellrichshausen and Felice Varini were chosen from a pool of eighteen outstanding, emerging and established architects practising in the UK and internationally. Trinity Square has benefited from Hull City Council’s £25 million public realm improvements programme. This latest transformation will build on the drive to bring new life to this historic part of the city.

Sam Hunt, Executive Producer, Hull 2017, said:

“The Hull 2017 Look Up programme is about making people see and experience this amazing city in new and exciting ways. A Hall for Hull will certainly do that, creating a new way of looking at and crossing Trinity Square and observing Hull Minster. It is helping kick off our fourth season and we hope that it will encourage even more people, both residents and visitors, to head to this key destination in the heart of the city.”

The selected co-commission, sponsored by Wedge Galvanising, is intended to offer new and memorable experiences that capture the excitement in Hull during 2017. A Hall for Hull is part of ‘Look Up’, a Hull 2017 curated programme of temporary installations in public places and spaces around the city.