by Colin Campbell
AS people in Inverness familiarise themselves with a curved slab of concrete which has been built for no obvious purpose on a natural riverside beauty spot at an extraordinary cost of £300,000 of public money, media coverage of it reaches ever more wondrous heights.
Yesterday we reported on the eulogy which somehow saw daylight in the Press and Journal to mark the opening of the Gathering Place, replete with unintelligible gibberish about the wall being “a space to celebrate the sense of place” and to “promote the social aspect” of the river.
But this is as nothing compared to an article about the Gathering Place printed yesterday in the online magazine Wallpaper.com, which covers subjects ranging from architecture to entertainment to beauty and grooming.
Now we may begin to get a first inkling as to why the councillors responsible for this grotesque riverside travesty fell for it. Did they simply swallow whole mind-bogglingly pretentious garbage and guff used to promote it?
Were they, in fact, hypnotised by hype?
Here is the latest article to appear about the Gathering Place.
The parts of it which might make sense to the average person are in plain type. The guff, garbage and gibberish about the concrete wall now adorning the Ness riverside are in italics. And without wishing to confuse matters, claims which border on outright lunacy are in bold italics.
LOCATED in the heart of the Highland city of Inverness, the Gathering Place is a minimalist yet powerful gesture on the Scottish landscape. Bridging design, architectural gardens, landscape and art, the piece has just been unveiled by a creative team composed of artists Sans Façon and architects KHBT, alongside the City of Inverness.
It creates not only an elegant architectural landmark for the region, but also a place for gathering and contemplation for locals and visitors alike.
The piece, all sweeping curves and tactile materiality, can be found along the banks of the iconic River Ness, conversing with the water and nature beyond.
Partly nestled into the riverbank, and partially floating above the water, the design aims to reconnect “the city with the river, drawing out its stories, engendering a sense of place and creating access to the river”, explain its creators.
This is not just an opportunity to create a beautiful, sculptural piece, set against the green nature of its context. It is also an attempt to symbolically and practically “revisit the river’s social role”, say the team, celebrating both the Ness and the city.
Highlighting this approach, the structure takes the visitor on a journey through the Scottish landscape, transforming from a bench, to a pathway, a platform and eventually, a pier or a bridge-like experience.
The Gathering Place is made out of Clashach stone, which can be sourced from the region, putting the emphasis once more on locality and community.
Not only is it a beautiful material but it’s also intrinsically connected to the region.
‘After the intense research, including the collection of many stories from the people of Inverness, it felt appropriate to create a minimal gesture that enhances the notion of the river being the main actor, whilst creating a tangible connection between the spectators from both embankments,” says KHBT director and Berlin International University of Applied Science professor Karsten Huneck.
So the question remains, was the Gathering Place wall dumped on the city because senior councillors were at the very outset taken in by this kind of nonsensical dross?
Did arts group chairwoman Isabelle MacKenzie really believe she was making an accurate prediction when she said the thing that’s now in place would turn out as being “unique” and “something which can’t be found anywhere else in the world”.
Did Provost Helen Carmichael also believe she was making an accurate prediction when she gushed: “I hope that it will not just be an asset to our city, but a place where people will be able to come together to pause and reflect on the joy of human interaction within the amphitheatre of the river.”
Were they hypnotised by hype from the outset of this wretched saga which has now reached its ugly, concrete conclusion?
It could perhaps be argued that this kind of publicity is good for Inverness and that people who read these kind of printed eulogies for the Gathering Place will actually travel here to see it.
Only to find themselves being confronted by what is now a pathetic little wall and will soon, with the accumulation of grime, dirt, and possibly graffiti, by then be a pathetic shabby little wall.
If they’ve believed what they’ve read they will feel a crushing sense of disappointment. And, as far as the proud city of Inverness goes, they’ll feel they’ve been blatantly conned.