The Hepworth Wakefield Museum | The Plan
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The Hepworth Wakefield Museum

David Chipperfield

At first glimpse the Hepworth Wakefield, set at the headland of the River Calder with water on two sides, enjoys high visibility from all sides. The setting, although a conservation area, was derelict and inaccessible for many years, so the new museum with its grey pigmented concrete facades and roof is all the more of a surprise to witness. “There are no fronts and backs: we were very careful to avoid that”, says Chipperfield of the building, which is hub of ten individually sized, discret but connected, trapezoidal blocks. These house five galleries showcasing the work of the famous Yorkshire-born sculptor Barbara Hepworth, a gallery of works on paper from the 18th and 19th centuries, a small gallery of 20th century British artists and four galleries with 650 m2 of temporary exhibition space for contemporary multi-media works. The facades’ sculptural tactility and sense of assemblage echoes the powerful forms of Hepworth’s work. Chipperfield is not a fan of flowing gallery spaces, and wanted to make a definite room structure for the museum, which is the largest purpose-built art gallery to open in the UK since the Hayward on London’s Southbank in 1968. As a volume it is quite big - 5000 m2 - and he wanted to see if he could make it “a fragmented building, a series of buildings linked together, rather than one big building trying to disguise itself.” It feels appropriate for the internal room structure to express itself on the outside. Chipperfield’s solution gives the museum a certain personality, with the blocks breaking down any notion of a singular form, and the service door at the rear becoming part of the “sculpture” of the whole building. The structure was made with in-situ cast concrete, with the load-bearing façade made using an innovative technique to allow it to stand partly in the water facing the weir and give a very clear, monolithic form. All the windows are flush with the façade so that there are no recesses interrupting the lines of the...

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