After all my visits to Stowe Gardens National Trust over the years, I’ve still not managed to visit Stowe House which is part of Stowe School. But now I’ve been (at least to one part), to see the Gaia art installation which was on tour visiting over a fortnight in October.
Thankfully I’d spotted it was coming locally and managed to book for the first morning it was open. I jumped the gun really because I was then invited to the press event the evening before, and had also bought N a ticket…who obviously said he definitely wasn’t going. Prices were quite cheap though, with National Trust members only paying £4, and children were £3 (whether they were National Trust or not). Under 2s were free.
I knew the weekend would be quite busy so decided to not visit Stowe Gardens and walk through the estate up to Stowe House. When you go to Stowe House through a ticketed event, you can just drive via the school entrance (it’s only open during school holidays for specific events or tours), and park really close to the main house entrance.
It’s nice to be able to drive straight up the drive as though you’re visiting a stately home, instead of to the National Trust entrance which is via the Buckingham entrance.
I’ve not been to Stowe School itself since I was there for sports matches at 6th form when we played them at hockey and basketball and had team teas inside. It was the main old part of the school you go directly to for the Gaia installation in the Marble Saloon.
Visiting Gaia installation at Stowe House
The tickets were in 15 minute timed slots. I’d arrived a bit early as had lots of others. We had to wait until the people had pretty much all arrived for the earlier slot before it became one in one out. We could see part of the art installation through the door, to increase the anticipation.
On entry the 6 metre diameter floating and rotating Gaia earth is a spectacular sight. Even though I’d seen photos and knew what it would be like, there’s still something special about seeing the Gaia installation first hand and up close. Gaia was designed by Luke Jerram, an internationally acclaimed artist.
It’s suspended above you in a beautiful marble themed room. The ceiling is ornately decorated, and the walls are adorned with ancient marble statues. The marble saloon was designed based on the Roman Pantheon hence the Roman procession in the freezer around the room.
It also feels very light and airy despite the giant earth taking over much of the space, due to the sunlight coming in through the glass domed oculus at the top of the room.
Being able to view the earth in this way is meant to mimic how astronauts feel looking down on earth. And to reflect on caring for the earth and the environment. Along with the music and commentary about the earth and climate, you can either lie on the couple of floor cushions and look up. Or sit around the edges on the marble benches and just watch and take in the slowly spinning Gaia.
It was quite busy even with the 15 minute entry slots, and letting one in one out as people leave. It feels busy because people are oblivious to those who’d like to watch in peace without them standing right under it posing for ages rather than taking a photo then moving out of the way for everyone else to get a clear shot.
I sat at the edge for a moment and took it in. I couldn’t hear much of the music, what I did hear was just commentary about climate. It was really soft, so I’m not sure I really took in what it was about. I was just happy to see the installation in situ and enjoy the room itself.
You can also go off to a side room and watch a video about Gaia. The video shows the design and people’s reactions to it in other venues. I didn’t stay long watching as I’d prefer to just see the actual artwork.
All in, I wasn’t there for very long. I waited for my entry slot for longer I think, than I was in the actual room. It was still worth a visit and I was pleased to have experienced it. And Stowe House is a beautiful venue to enjoy both inside and out walking back to the car.
If you’re visiting Stowe Gardens National Trust, then it’s worth seeing if your visit coincides with an event or tour opportunities at Stowe House and combining the 2.