The Bathing House Listening Tower, by Fleafolly
The Bathing House Listening Tower, by Fleafolly

Contemporary art for all ages at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal


Outdoor art returns to Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal this year for folly! Bigger and bolder than ever, folly! 2018 will celebrate the playful, whimsical style of Studley Royal water garden, and the four designs which will bring fresh colour and curiosity to the landscape in April have been revealed.

Internationally recognised architects and artists Charles Holland, Lucy + Jorge Orta and Fleafolly will create installations for folly! 2018 to bewitch and beguile visitors of all ages to the World Heritage Site. The designs include an exotic and colourful 9m tower, a mirrored sphere which will reflect and frame the garden’s many viewpoints, and a curious echo-chamber water tower. A fourth imaginative design by a local primary school student, will create a suspended raining cloud which will collect rainwater as it falls.

Now in its third year, folly! will encourage visitors to explore the water garden as it was originally intended; as a site of play and intrigue with dramatic views that criss-cross the landscape. The Georgian water garden is dotted with follies, fanciful structures designed to catch the eye, and for folly! 2018, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal invited artists to design new art works, or modern day follies, to be installed where original 18th century follies have been lost from the landscape.

  • folly! 2018
  • Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal
  • 28 April – 4 November 2018


Polly, by Charles Holland
Polly, by Charles Holland



Architect Charles Holland has designed a theatrical 9m tall tower that will sit atop Tent Hill, once the site of a period ‘campaign-style’ tent as well as a classical temple. The tower, affectionately nick-named Polly, evokes the playful structures of 18th century picturesque gardens as well as the exotic flora and fauna they often featured. Its form is reminiscent of an exotic bird and it will be clad in timber shingles, painted in a mix of opulent colours to suggest a parrot’s plumage.

The ‘head’ of the tower will house a camera obscura which will project new, focussed views of the water garden within the interior. The fantastical installation will be visible from ‘Surprise View,’ the most famous vista in the World Heritage Site, and will appear in the landscape alongside the majestic ruins of Fountains Abbey.


Gazing Ball, by Lucy + Jorge Orta
Gazing Ball, by Lucy + Jorge Orta


The site of the second installation for folly! 2018 is the Banqueting House lawn, where the Rotundo, a classical Ionic temple folly designed as a focus for distant views once stood. The ‘Gazing Ball’ will offer a dazzling reflection of the moon ponds and mirrored waters of Studley Royal; a 4m tall pentagonal steel sculpture with multiple windows of different shapes, referencing architectural details of the former folly and presenting picture-perfect framed views across the gardens to the gothic Octagon Tower opposite. The sculpture will be crowned by a chrome sphere which will catch the light and play with the reflected views of the water garden.



Until the mid-1800s, a stone bath house stood opposite the moon ponds of the water garden. Fed by a nearby spring, the small folly housed a plunge pool for zealous thrill seekers. The lost folly will be re-imagined by architects Fleafolly (Pascal Bronner & Thomas Hillier) who will create The Bathing House Listening Tower; a striking 3m tall white tower topped with a copper water collector. The tower will echo the sounds of dripping water, using internal trumpets to amplify and transmit the sounds, tempting garden explorers to interact with the listening tower, hearing the sounds of the past Bathing House folly.

folly! project officer Aimee Rawson said:

We are delighted to reveal this year’s designs for folly! It’s the most exciting year yet, and we hope the works will entice visitors to discover the scale and extravagance of Studley Royal water garden. When John Aislabie created this stunning garden his designs deliberately included curious, fanciful objects and alternative viewpoints so it’s wonderful to develop these original concepts for our visitors today.

We hope to introduce many more to the garden’s mesmerising views and playful spirit – it’s is one of the key reasons we are a World Heritage Site, and alongside the original quirky and playful follies in the garden’s landscape, we hope these new striking artworks will surprise and inspire visitors of all ages.


Folly! schools project – The Raining Cloud
Folly! schools project – The Raining Cloud


A competition to design a fourth folly! run in partnership with North Yorkshire Society of Architects, was won by 11 year old Foster Carter from Le Cateau Primary School, Catterick Garrison near York. More than 1,800 children from 50 schools across Yorkshire and the North East entered the competition which encouraged children to create their own contemporary folly following design workshops led by architects. Foster’s design, ‘The Raining Cloud’, uses a 4.2m wood frame to hold up a ‘cloud’ and will be situated at Silver Pond in the water garden. The Raining Cloud will launch alongside the other installations on 28 April.

folly! is part of ‘Trust New Art’, a partnership between the National Trust and Arts Council England.



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