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New art installation for Ickworth's historic Rotunda

The project will see a temporary artwork installed this winter whilst the iconic Rotunda is shrouded in scaffolding as work takes place to conserve the famous domed roof.

A collaboration between internationally renowned artist Pablo Bronstein and David Kohn Architects to create a new art installation inspired by the grandeur of the neo-classical Rotunda at the National Trust’s Ickworth has been announced as part of a £5 million conservation project at the Suffolk estate.

Argentinian artist Pablo Bronstein is known for his imaginative, classically inspired work which ranges from drawing to choreography, with a focus on architecture often with reference to Baroque style, and has worked with Tate Britain and Sadler’s Wells.

One of the most photographed buildings in the National Trust, Ickworth’s Rotunda will be covered in scaffolding for more than six months while the conservation work is undertaken. This will provide a canvas for a temporary 3D art piece which will offer visitors a different perspective of the more than 200-years-old Italianate-style building.

Throughout its history, the display and curation of artwork has been at the heart of Ickworth with its creator, the fourth Earl of Bristol, also known as the Earl Bishop, intending the building to be used to house the family collection.


Tim Watson, General Manager at Ickworth said: “Ickworth has always been a home for great art and the Earl Bishop held a vision that it should act as a gallery for pieces that had been collected from around the world. 

“Today, Ickworth houses some impressive works by artists such as Titian and Gainsborough, and so as we begin a major project that will temporarily alter the external view of Ickworth, it felt natural to turn to a contemporary artist to help visitors experience these changes outside in a visually exciting way.

“Pablo Bronstein is an internationally recognised artist and we are thrilled to be working with him and David Kohn as they draw inspiration from Ickworth’s classical architecture.” 

The installation is part of a year-long, ambitious conservation programme that will see the Rotunda roof re-tiled by a team of craftsmen, whilst work on the east link roof will prevent rainwater leaking in and will protect the collection housed inside. 

The addition of lightning protection to the roof, and reinforcement of the underground vaults, means the National Trust is conserving Ickworth’s Rotunda from top to bottom.

The conservation project is the biggest investment the National Trust has ever made at Ickworth and is being funded thanks to the generosity of the charity’s members, supporters and donors, together with significant grant funding.

The artwork has been commissioned through the Trust New Art programme, which sees contemporary art opportunities brought to National Trust places all over the country; it has been made possible thanks to a £30,000 grant from Arts Council England. 

David Kohn Architects is a London-based practice, whose international portfolio demonstrates a strong emphasis on creative collaboration and is currently working on classically inspired buildings in London and Oxford.

Pablo Bronstein said “It has been a real pleasure for David Kohn and I to work with the National Trust during their conservation of Ickworth, one of the most startling and eccentric buildings in England, and one of the Trust’s most remarkable and best-loved properties. It is a privilege to be here at a unique moment in its history, when it ceases being a large oval and becomes momentarily a giant scaffolded square. 

“Our installation will be both provocative and serious, in that it seeks to transform a temporary structure into an image of architecture that speaks to history and the importance of the classical tradition. David and I share a deep interest in classical 

architecture and hope our installation will both raise a smile and open up a debate about the nature of taste and style within contemporary practice."

Whilst the scaffolding and installation will mean the Rotunda takes on a temporary external appearance, a further grant of £85,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund will see an additional new experience created inside the Rotunda focused on the collection, meaning visitors will see the building in new ways both inside and out, during the conservation work.

A grant of £50,000 from the Wolfson Foundation has made the work to the vaults possible, allowing the National Trust to invest also in the conservation of the quietest, most hidden parts of Ickworth.

Tim Watson added: “We are grateful to all our donors for everything they do to support the essential conservation of Ickworth that will mean this remarkable building can also be enjoyed by future generations. The project is allowing us to take steps to care for Ickworth from the top of the roof to the darkest spaces underground, whilst at the same time presenting the building in an entirely new way.

“Whilst the National Lottery Heritage Fund have allowed us to start work on exciting plans for inside the house, this Arts Council England grant has meant we can work with an artistic team who really understand how special this place is. 

“Whether you are interested in seeing our conservation work in progress or discovering the new experiences as the project unfolds, we hope everyone will enjoy Ickworth, whether they are regular visitors or viewing it for the first time.”

Work to construct the scaffolding for the Rotunda is underway, and the art installation will be unveiled this winter. For further information on the project and opening times visit http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ickworth