Highland Council Unveils Major New Public Artwork for Scotland in Inverness

A major new public artwork for Scotland has been opened in the heart of the Highland Capital, Inverness.

Found along the banks of the iconic River Ness, ‘The Gathering Place’ was co-created by the collaborative team of Sans façon and KHBT for the City of Inverness.

The artists were tasked with creating an artwork that “re-connects the city with the river, drawing out its stories, engendering a sense of place and creating access to the river.”

It was an opportunity to revisit the river’s social role within the fabric of the city and celebrate its distinct character.

A short walk upstream from the centre of Inverness, ‘The Gathering Place’ creates a sense of place that draws your attention to the nature and character of the River Ness.

Framed on both banks, Clashach stone encircles a portion of the river along the water’s edge.

The simple contour of stone transitions from bench like platform to a pier where it reaches out to offer views upstream in the direction of Loch Ness and back towards the Castle and heart of the city.

Echoing the shape of the banks of the river the artwork maintains a low, horizontal presence so it does not dominate the landscape while views are unobstructed to ensure the river itself remains the focus.

Tristan Surtees, of Sans façon, said:

“The work in many ways is a monument to the social and natural heritage of the river, so important to keep and protect.

“It is a space to celebrate the sense of place, to interact, to enjoy the theatre of the river and to perhaps see the familiar anew.”

Karsten Huneck of KHBT added:

“After the intense research including the collection of many stories of 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.”

The Clashach stone was selected for its beauty and the proximity of its origin in Moray to the site which has historically made it the material of choice for many important local buildings including the ‘Town House’ and further afield the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and the Sagrada Família, Barcelona.

Given the artworks proximity to the river and the sensitivity of the site, the artists, engineers and construction team liaised closely with NatureScot (formerly Scottish Natural Heritage), SEPA, Historic Environment Scotland, Scottish Forestry and Land and the flood risk management team to ensure the piece has the durability to withstand use and weather events with minimal or no impact on wildlife, natural habitats, or trees.

The project is indebted to the craft and skill of Beauly based Simpsons Builders who undertook construction of the work and the people of Inverness who participated in the design process and stuck with the project throughout the pandemic delays to make this permanent addition to the historic River Ness for all citizens and visitors to enjoy.

What people have to say:

Iain Munro, CEO at Creative Scotland commented:

“The Gathering Place will bring people together and create a space for contemplation and reflection.

“The impressive new work of art from award winning, world-renowned artists, Sans façon and KHBT will enrich the riverscape for both residents and visitors.”

Chair of the ICArts Working Group, Cllr Isabelle MacKenzie, said:

“The Gathering Place is an exciting new public artwork and we are delighted to have international artists sans facon & KHBT involved in this project.

“Their unique artwork has taken inspiration from the River Ness incorporating the shore and water creating a truly individual urban architecture using local company Simpsons and locally sourced stone, with its connection to other well-known public buildings.”

She added:

“The Gathering Place will allow the pubic to access all around the trail of the river, which is what was the original brief presented to the City Committee back in 2012.

“I would like to express my huge gratitude and appreciation to all those involved in this project; the working group, fellow councillors, council staff and outside representatives to allow us to be unveiling this new public art installation to Inverness.”

Inverness Provost, Cllr Helen Carmichael, said:

“The Gathering Place provides hope for the future as we continue through a recovery from the pandemic.

“People are once again able to meet up, interact and start to feel more of a sense of normality returning to their lives.

“It’s been great to see the artists listened to the range of views and delivered a piece which built on people’s stories and memories of the river.

“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.”

Professor Jim Mooney chaired the Evaluation Panel which selected the artists and he said:

“I am delighted to learn that the Gathering Place structure has been completed.

“Public art can provide a new perspective on the world, offer up the unexpected and deliver original views that endure.”

He added:

“This art is not only thought provoking, but is life-enhancing, engaging and equally importantly, forward looking and contemporary.”