The Hepworth Wakefield
The Hepworth Wakefield, named after English sculptur Barbara Hepworth who was born in Wakefield in 1903, is located in the historic waterfront area on the banks of the River Calder south of Wakefield City Centre.
The site is within the Wakefield Waterfront Conservation area, which contains a number of significant industrial buildings made of brick and stone that once housed the town’s cloth and grain industries.
The new building sits on the Headland of the River Calder, a stretch of land trapped between the bend in the river where the Calder is closest to the historic centre, and a series of locks known as the Hebble Navigation which create a shortcut.
To the north – at the same place where the river level drops at the weir – the building steps into the water just as many of the old mills and warehouses do along the river. The monolithic appearance and composition is accentuated by the use of pigmented insitu concrete.
The gallery building is formed from a conglomeration of different sized trapezoidal blocks, responding to the scale and rooflines of the surrounding small scale industrial buildings. With water on two sides and visibility from all directions, the site – and therefore the building – has no front or back elevation.
All of the galleries use the same neutral language, allowing for future reinterpretation and representation of art works. Open doorways link the gallery spaces in a fluid and varied sequence, offering glimpses of other artworks and the outside world.
From inside the individual blocks, the outer morphology can be clearly seen in ceilings which slope parallel to the outer roofs, and rooms in which no two surfaces lie parallel to one another. Walls meet at diverse angles, and the variations in size and ceiling pitch give each room a unique atmosphere. The main source of daylight in each gallery is a light slot running the full width of the ceiling at the highest end of each space. Louvers allow the light to be regulated or even completely blocked out if necessary.
In addition to these light slots several of the galleries feature a window, scaled according to the orientation and importance of the view, framing an aspect to the world surrounding the gallery and linking Barbara Hepworth’s sculptures to the landscape in which she grew up.
The program is split horizontally between the ground floor and the first floor – exclusively used for exhibition space. The ground floor contains the reception, shop, cafeteria, auditorium, and learning studios, as well as offices and back-of house areas including the archive, storage, and a loading bay.