HINTERLAND: Reclaiming Abandoned Seminary for Arts Venue


Hinterland: a world premiere event to launch Scotland’s Festival of Architecture 2016

  • In March 2016, Hinterland will mark the official launch of Scotland’s Festival of Architecture with a night-time public art event at St Peter’s seminary, presenting a key highlight of the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design.
  • Almost 50 years to the day since the seminary opened, Glasgow based public art charity NVA present Hinterland, a world premiere and the inaugural event in the ambitious permanent scheme to reclaim the future of the world-renowned St Peter’s seminary, in Cardross, Argyll & Bute.
  • At night, audiences will walk through the atmospheric semi-ancient woodland to discover the ruined seminary buildings, subtly re-animated with monochromatic light installations and a specially commissioned choral work by composer Rory Boyle performed by St Salvator’s Chapel Choir from the University of St Andrews.
  • Hinterland is a creative collaboration between Angus Farquhar (director), James Johnson (designer), Rory Boyle (composer), University of St Andrews Music Centre and St Salvator’s Chapel Choir, Phil Supple (lighting director), NOVAK Collective (projection design), and from 85A art collective Dav Bernard, Zephyr Liddell, Robbie Thomson & Pete Sach (installations)
  • The event opens on 18 March 2016 and runs to 27 March 2016.
  • Tickets on sale on www.hinterland.org

As dusk falls to darkness amongst semi-ancient woodland on the Firth of Forth, Hinterland invites audiences to experience one of Scotland’s most iconic 20th century buildings transformed using sound and light to symbolise its rise out of monumental ruination into a new creative life.

In a historic moment, the wider public will discover the ruins of St Peter’s seminary for the first time, fifty years since the modernist masterpiece was built. Hinterland will subtly re-animate the skeletal concrete superstructure with monochromatic light, projection and a specially commissioned choral work by composer Rory Boyle, performed by St Salvator’s Chapel Choir from the University of St Andrews.

As protagonists within a living sculpture the audience is able to move freely through the seminary’s main spaces, encountering the subtle integration of polyphony, projection mapping and light installations playing out on and around the surfaces of the degraded superstructure.

Hinterland is the name for both the inaugural event and the planned permanent cultural resource, presenting a public statement about the site’s future use as a national platform for progressive public art, looking towards 2018 when the partially restored buildings are fully opened. The event follows an extensive programme of work to make the building safe for future use led by Reigart Contracts. This transition has revealed stunning architectural details that have been concealed beneath debris for the last 25 years.

Hinterland, NVA’s ambitious scheme to reclaim the future of the world-renowned St Peter’s seminary and its surrounding landscape represents the last chance to save what is widely recognised as Scotland’s and the UK’s most important modernist building. Designed and built by Andy MacMillan and Isi Metzstein of the renowned Gillespie, Kidd and Coia architectural practice, St Peter’s seminary was completed and consecrated in 1966 and went on to win MacMillan and Metzstein the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Gold Medal for architecture. However, after 30 years of decline the buildings are now registered as one of the World Monuments Fund’s most endangered cultural landmarks.

A dynamic design team comprising Avanti Architects, ERZ Landscape Architects and NORD Architecture has been appointed to take capital plans for Hinterland forward, adopting a ground-breaking approach to heritage restoration. Combining partial restoration, consolidation of the existing ruin and new designs for a cafe and public hub, the scheme will create a 600-capacity events space, flexible indoor and outdoor teaching and performance spaces, a permanent exhibition, restored woodland paths and visitor facilities which are set to establish Hinterland as a national platform for public art, living heritage and knowledge exchange in the 21st century.

Angus Farquhar, Creative Director of NVA said, “Almost 50 years on from the day the seminary opened, we are witnessing the first positive steps towards a new purpose, one that accepts loss and ruination as part of the site’s history creating an evolving arts programme for local people, all of Scotland and visitors attracted to this iconic site from around the world.

“We are setting out to ensure that the imaginative re-use of this great late modernist structure reflects the same social dynamism and ambition with which it was conceived, based around a spirit of working progressively to improve what we can and imagining a better world. It is NVA’s intention to preserve a raw sense of otherness, excitement and revelation.

“Hinterland will offer everyone a chance to visit the Kilmahew/St Peter’s at a key moment in its evolution and it promises to be the must-see arts event of 2016 leading on to the delivery of an important new creative and heritage resource for progressive public art in Scotland and beyond… You want to be able to say that you were there at the start of what promises to be the most significant arts development for a generation.”

Neil Baxter, CEO Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) said, “The architectural significance of the former St Peter’s Seminary must be measured in European terms. It is now on the brink of becoming a quite new type of visitor and a national cultural attraction. The impressive spaces and dramatic allure of its contrasting concrete geometries will be a remarkable setting for public art, music and theatre. Those who take up this offer and are among the first visitors to St Peter’s new incarnation will have something to tell the grandkids!  2016 is going to be a very special celebration of Scotland’s fantastic architecture and we’re delighted to have ‘Hinterland’ as the first headline event of the Festival of Architecture”.

Mike Cantlay, Chairman of VisitScotland said: “The Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design 2016 is a wonderful opportunity for Scotland to showcase its most unique and exciting buildings, projects and events to the world and Hinterland is a fantastic example of this. St Peter’s seminary is a modern building of world significance and NVA’s plans to bring it back to life through such an interesting and innovative project is truly inspirational.  We have no doubt that the Hinterland event will be an important and distinctive highlight of the events programme in 2016, and I am looking very much to witnessing this modernist icon coming to life.”

Hinterland is produced by NVA on behalf of Kilmahew / St Peter’s Ltd and is the official launch event of the Festival of Architecture 2016 which is supported by Event Scotland and Creative Scotland. The event is a key highlight of the 2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. Supported by Forestry Commission Scotland, Reigart Demolition and Argyll & Bute Council.

Near Helensburgh, Argyll & Bute, Scotland
18 – 27 March 2016
Tickets on sale at

 Background Information:

NVA has produced ambitious proposals to resuscitate St Peter’s seminary, a decaying modernist icon in the West of Scotland and the surrounding semi-ancient woodland. This £7 million capital investment is a deeply exciting prospect for cultural and leisure audiences in Scotland, the UK and internationally. In November 2014, a design team comprising Avanti Architects, ERZ Landscape Architects and NORD Architecture was appointed to take the proposals forward. An innovative approach to heritage conservation combining partial restoration, consolidation and new design will restore the entire site as the most significant new cultural resource and large-scale arts venue of this century. This will include a 600-capacity venue, indoor and outdoor teaching spaces, a historic castle, woodland paths and visitor facilities.


NVA’s mission is to make powerful public art that reaffirms people’s connection to built and natural heritage.

The company has produced many unusual and dynamic interventions in extraordinary landscapes over the last 20 years. Light, sound and collective movement have been incorporated into the mountains of Skye, city lighting festivals and international cultural events including the 2012 Cultural Olympiad and the Tour de France – Grand Départ in Yorkshire in 2014.

Its practice uses creative learning and environmental innovation, involving audiences in physically redefining urban and rural settings, revealing how places shape and are shaped by people. Permanent works, which often regenerate broken landscapes, include the resuscitation of St Peter’s Seminary as the world’s first intentional modernist ruin, creating a new resource for arts, heritage and knowledge exchange.

NVA is an acronym of ‘nacionale vita activa’, expressing the Ancient Greek ideal of a lively democracy, where actions and words shared among equals bring new thinking into the world.


Festival of Architecture 2016

Hinterland is proud to be part of the Festival of Architecture 2016, Scotland’s Celebration of design, creativity and built environment. The Festival runs throughout 2016 with over 400 events taking place across Scotland. Go to www.foa2016.com to get involved. @foa2016 #foa2016.

The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) was founded in 1916 and is the professional body for chartered architects in Scotland. Including student members, Honorary Fellows and retirees, the Incorporation has over 4,700 members. The RIAS promotes excellence in architecture in Scotland.

In June 2013, in its new Policy on Architecture, Creating Places, the Scottish Government announced its support for a Festival of Architecture in 2016 to be led by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, working in partnership with a range of interested bodies.

In September 2013 the First Minister announced the official designation of 2016 as Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, further affirmation of the Government’s support of the Festival.


2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design

  • 2016 will shine a spotlight on Scotland’s achievements in innovation, architecture and design through a wide-ranging, variety of new and existing activity.
  • The Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design begins on 1 January 2016 and ends on 31 December 2016 and will build on the momentum generated by the current 2015 Year of Food and Drink as well as previous years including Homecoming Scotland 2014, the Year of Creative and the Year of Natural.
  • Through a series of exciting events and activity, the year will showcase Scotland’s position as an “innovation nation”, its outstanding built heritage, and its thriving, internationally acclaimed creative industries sector.
  • The Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design is a Scottish Government initiative being led by VisitScotland, and supported by a variety of partners including Scottish Government, Creative Scotland, Architecture + Design Scotland, Scottish Tourism Alliance, Scottish Enterprise, The National Trust for Scotland, Historic Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS).
  • The Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design events fund is managed by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate.
  • www.visitscotland.com

The University of St Andrews Music Centre provides musical opportunities for the University’s staff and students and for the wider community in East Fife. It offers instrumental and vocal teaching and a wide range of instrumental and vocal ensembles, and hosts a busy programme of concerts and other events by both professional and student performers. The Music Centre benefits from a close collaboration with the internationally renowned Scottish Chamber Orchestra, who are the University’s Orchestra in Residence: the SCO gives five concerts per season at the Younger Hall and its members regularly visit to give chamber concerts, masterclasses and to work with the Centre’s community orchestra. Other annual highlights of the Music Centre’s programme include our annual festival, St Andrews Voices, a staged opera production, an international tour by St Salvator’s Chapel Choir, and a series of professional chamber concerts hosted in collaboration with the St Andrews Music Club. Many of the Music Centre’s opportunities are open to everyone, from absolute beginners to experienced musicians. Though the University does not offer a full degree programme in music, the musical scene is very lively and increasing numbers of talented musicians are choosing to come and study and make music here.

The Music Centre is currently staffed by a full-time Director of Music and University Organist, and a part-time New Music Coordinator and Music Technology Coordinator, supported by an administrative team consisting of a part-time Music Centre Manager, a full-time Concerts, Performance and Events Administrator, and a further full-time administrator and administrative assistant. Instrumental and vocal teaching and ensemble coaching are offered by a team of approximately thirty freelance teachers, with additional input from our distinguished Honorary Professors in voice, strings, piano, organ, conducting and jazz. There are also undergraduate academic modules in music, offered in conjunction with the University’s School of Philosophical, Anthropological and Film Studies.

 St Salvator’s Chapel Choir is the flagship choir of the University of St Andrews. A mixed voice ensemble of around 30 students, its history extends back to the founding of the University in the early fifteenth century, when students were obliged to sing in the University’s chapel.  These choristers were referred to as the ‘Choristi Sanctiandree’.

Today, under the direction of Tom Wilkinson, the choir performs a broad repertoire spanning the six centuries of the University’s history. In addition to three sung services per week and extensive ceremonial duties, the choir enjoys a busy schedule of concerts, international tours, broadcasts on radio and TV, as well as appearances at international festivals.  During 2015 the choir toured to venues including Princeton University and Washington National Cathedral in the USA and will perform at the international choral and organ festivals in Haarlem and Alkmaar, The Netherlands.

Committed to the performance of new music, St Salvator’s Chapel Choir regularly commissions and performs works for both liturgical and secular contexts. In recent years the choir has been privileged to work with musicians such as Sir John Eliot Gardiner, James MacMillan, Paul Mealor and Arvo Pärt.

For more information, please visit  www.stsalvatorschapelchoir.co.uk

‘A spectacular performance of ground-breaking choral music’. *****’ Glasgow Herald