Kim Wilkie’s Orpheus Excavation

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On the grounds of Boughton House in Northamptonshire, UK, Kim Wilkie Associates, a landscape architecture firm, created Orpheaus, a modern composition and excavation in “one of the great English houses with one of the country’s most powerful landscapes,” writes Building Design. The 7-meter deep composition create a visual narrative of the descent of Orpheus, “recalling the image, from the Cocteau movie, of Jean Marais stepping into the Underworld by dissolving a mirror with his fingertips.”

Building Design adds that the changing landscape of Boughton House reflects the evolving political fortunes of the Montagus. “The impression they leave on the visitor is of a complicated layering: periods of power and of diffidence, of neglect and immense activity, of great plans not completed, of enthusiastic focus, of disdain for fashion and, occasionally, of decline. To some extent this pattern reflects the political and social fortunes of the Montagus as they came and went over 300 years, but also the distractions presented by three other family houses, all in Scotland. It is at least possible that the odd duke never himself visited Boughton, and certain that many never thought of it as home.”

Kim Wilkie’s work is both hidden and monumental. “Orpheus may be at its best on one’s own: it is not then just an elegantly proportioned piece of furniture in a very big park, however good it is in this role. That anything so monumental should in fact need to be discovered, and best on foot, is disarming; and as the ground yawns on approach, there is the sharp, impossible recognition that the void of Orpheus has been literally expressed to form the half-pyramid beyond the canal. This is the key effect.”

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