In Focus: The giant, ephemeral artwork that came and went in a single day at Houghton Hall

Richard Woods' massive Estate installation graced the grounds of the Marquess of Cholmondeley's home for less than a day

A strange new house appeared just in front of Houghton Hall, Sir Robert Walpole’s former home in Norfolk, on Sunday 13 October. It was enormous, child-like — and as fleeting as it gets.

Estate is an installation by artist Richard Woods, who is known for his architectural work and bold lines (among others, he previously placed small, cartoon-like bungalows around Folkestone). Loosely inspired by simplistic figures carved into the ground, such as the Uffington White Horse and the Cerne Abbas Giant, the work was first shown at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in August.

But Mr Woods is interested in the relationship between art and landscape and few locations could be better to explore that then Houghton, where the house’s historic grandeur provided a perfect counterpoint to the artwork’s minimal lines.

Estate artwork by Richard Woods

Aerial view of Estate by Richard Woods at Houghton Hall

The Norfolk country house, which is home to the seventh Marquess of Cholmondeley, is no stranger to unusual pieces. The Marquess is an avid art collector and the grounds are peppered with contemporary sculptures, from Phillip King’s colourful Dunstable Reel to Rachel Whiteread’s Houghton Hut.

Artist Richard Woods and Lord Cholmondeley at Houghton Hall

Artist Richard Woods and Lord Cholmondeley

But Estate stands out for several reasons. First of all, scale—deliberately designed to be seen from the sky (or by Google Earth), it spans 70,000 square feet (the size of a football pitch) and is so big that more than 40 Norwich University of the Arts students had to be called in to help install it.

The second is style: unlike the Houghton sculptures, Estate is practically two-dimensional: it’s made with strips of black cotton, held by strategically placed tent pegs, to mimic a drawing. And the third, and most important, is transience. The installation has already come and gone — it only stayed at Houghton for a few hours, taking the concept of ephemeral art to a whole new level.

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Thanks to @houghton_hall for helping organise the installation of ‘estate’ at the weekend . And thanks to the incredible support and assistance from the 60 or 70 that turned up in the pouring raining to help. Including @nuamasters @nuafilm @nuafineart @rebeccaclifford8379 @foxjenart @maire_birbeck_illustration @alisonholdenstandley @gwynethfitzmaurice @elizabethprentis @paeonylewis @nuafineart @clairecansick @lucy_scovell and loads more people including #anthonygormley for measuring and installing and filming . And Thanks to @kieranm455 for amazing organising . #art #drawing #sculpture #design #architecture #diy @cristearoberts @l21gallery @albionbarn @oscarflorit @davidrisley @leejiyoon1 @clare.lilley @yspsculpture

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If you missed it at Houghton, however, fear not: Estate may soon reappear against other surprising backdrops. Mr Woods is already in discussions with other venues about the possibility of reinstalling it, although no definitive dates have been confirmed at present.

Richard Woods is on Instagram at @richardwoodsstudio while you can find out more about Houghton Hall at