Monday, 16 July 2012

RIBA Awards 2012 - What the judges said: The Hepworth Wakefield

Photographer: Iwan Baan

Arrival by car to this building is initially a little confusing. It is soon clear that artifice is at play and one’s approach is being manipulated. The promise of the building across the road and its extraordinary context means, however, that you engage willingly as you are drawn across the elegant entrance bridge surrounded by all manner of strange river craft and motley industrial buildings.
Photographer: Helene Binet
The gallery works beautifully with this varied and gritty context, both suggesting it belongs and at the same time is something rather special. Its scale changes as you approach and enter it, big and dramatic where it needs to be, but welcoming where it doesn’t. The carefully cast dusky mauve concrete forms make you want to stroke them as you get closer and the subtle thro-coloured mdf lining of the entrance hall has the same effect.

What appears to be a fairly random set of boxes in plan soon reveals its logic, with spaces such as the shop, cafĂ©, education room and offices on the ground floor radiating out from the entrance space. The stair to the first floor also radiates from the entrance space and takes you up, wrapped in the mauve mdf lining, to the first floor galleries. Here the circulation pattern changes subtly from radiating to radial and the promenade takes you sideways through an en-filade of galleries. 
Photographer: Iwan Baan
Photographer: Iwan Baan
The galleries are formed using a double wall system which allows tolerance in way the different gallery shapes relate to each other, provides wonderfully deep and substantial thresholds between spaces and completely conceals the ventilation services which feed the spaces through the shadow gaps between wall and floor. This level of control of potential visual interference is complete. Blackout is seamlessly integrated, as is daylight attenuation and other more obvious details like doors and windows which are flushed in or unexpressed.

This only serves to heighten the sense of light quality and relation to context given by the openings that are allowed with each space. The long slit roof light in each gallery is a recurring theme that models each space whilst the carefully placed windows serve to rest the eye and constantly locate the building against the context of Hemsley Moor, the Town Hall, the Wier and the Chapel on the Bridge.
Photographer: Iwan Baan
The jury were impressed by the fact that despite dramatic changes of scale within spaces; they were all focussed, comfortable and relaxed, allowing both large and small objects to be shown together in an atmosphere of intimacy. The fact that you can see from one space to another and beyond draws the eye naturally through, taking you with it.

Visiting this building was a truly uplifting experience; it was very focussed and perfectly considered. It gave the sense of being made specifically for the work of Hepworth whilst at the same time being very much of Yorkshire, grounded and granite like. An affirming project on every level.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing place for visit .
    really interesting things thanks for share this great blog .
    i like your photography .

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