A work of art in itself, Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s stunning new £3.6million visitor centre – The Weston – has been unveiled at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
The building, which was named as a result of significant support from family grant-maker, The Garfield Weston Foundation, is constructed on a historic quarry site within the 18th-century Bretton Estate. The Weston upgrades the visitor experience at the East Entrance to the park.
The beautiful, light-filled building was designed by architects Feilden Fowles and constructed by Yorkshire-based company William Birch.
It increases essential capacity at the award-winning open-air museum and gallery in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, which welcomed over 480,000 people in 2017, its 40th anniversary year.
The centre comprises a restaurant (140m2), gallery space (125m2), public foyer (80m2) and shop (50m2).
The Weston is carefully designed to have minimum impact on the site and, in common with the park’s previous developments, to fit sympathetically with the historic landscape.
Constructed from layered pigmented concrete, evoking the strata of sandstone bedrock, the building emerges from the ground and is defined by a concrete saw-tooth roof. Its low profile protects it from the nearby motorway and forms a sheltered, sunken terrace with views across the park towards the Lower Lake and Bretton Hall.
The single-storey building has two façades: the arc-shaped western elevation, which is glazed at the southern end where the restaurant is located, providing stunning views across the park; and the east elevation, a 50m-long wall of layered concrete, centrally split by the main entrance.
This sculptural, solid wall, subject to extensive material research and testing, works partly as a buffer to the nearby, busy Huddersfield Road, as well as a new threshold for visitors to pass through when they enter the park.
Research exploring concrete mixes of different pigments and aggregates, combined with a retardant on the face of the shuttering and post-striking jet-washing, produced a layered concrete wall of local stone types – limestone, granite and sandstone – with a textured surface that subtly resembles layers in the millstone grit soil strata beneath.
The gallery is distinguished from the rest of the building by a cast in-situ white pigmented concrete, fair-faced on the walls and board-marked on the soffit of the rooflights, with a semi-translucent GRP canopy gently filtering light from above, protecting the artworks on show inside. The space hosts temporary exhibitions of work by modern artists to complement the collection in the park’s outdoor areas.
Naturalistic planting, including a wild-flower roof, designed by Jonathan Cook Landscape Architects, is inspired by 19th-century Yorkshireman and plant adventurer, Reginald Farrer.
To maintain comfortable conditions, solar control glazing and a sedum roof help reduce summertime overheating, in conjunction with natural ventilation to the café through glazed openings and rooflights. The centre also features an air-source heat pump.
Rainwater runoff is retained on site and runs to a swale, improving local biodiversity and reducing flooding risk.
The centre enhances physical, intellectual and sensory access to the landscape, ecology and heritage of the historic estate, as well as to sculpture presented elsewhere in the park. The new gallery showcases a changing programme of temporary exhibitions, with an interactive project by the important Indian artists Thukral and Tagra inaugurating the space.
The restaurant, with open kitchen and Scandinavian-inspired interior, including a wood- burning stove, offers table service and a fresh, seasonal, and sustainably produced menu.
The new shop extends the park’s successful retail operation, providing opportunities for both artists and designers. New product ranges have been especially developed, in collaboration with craftsmen and women across the UK, taking inspiration from nature and the landscape. Visitors can purchase produce such as bakes, honey and chutneys made at the park.
The Weston Foundation’s Director, Philippa Charles, said: “The Weston Family was delighted to support this project to enable more people to enjoy the Park and contribute to its long-term financial sustainability.”