Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s new visitor centre will comprise a world-class new gallery, restaurant, public foyer and shop.

Set into a hillside in a former quarry, the 662sqm, low-rise building at Europe’s largest contemporary sculpture park will feature rammed-earth walls to complement the existing sandstone in the area. They will be used for two of the external walls as well as one side of the gallery.

The £3.8 million project, designed sympathetically with the historic landscape by BD 2016 Young Architect of the Year, Feilden Fowles, will be built out of stabilised rammed earth on the side of a hill at the Bretton Country Park entrance to the landscaped park. The building has been designed to have minimal impact on the landscape and will host temporary exhibitions of work by 20th and 21st century artists to complement the artworks in the outdoor space.

Skelly & Couch is carrying out full services design at the high-profile cultural destination, where the building’s internal climate is aimed to be as naturally controlled as possible. Following the general move towards lower energy storage and display in museums and galleries, the building services and environmental firm has taken the innovative step of introducing the first-ever separate hygroscopic buffer to control humidity, thereby reducing energy use and the need for specialist mechanical plant. The buffer is made up of air-dried, rather than fired, clay bricks. Unfired bricks are more porous, and absorb more water from the air during periods of high humidity and release it when conditions change. Skelly & Couch is aiming for around 50% relative humidity and is also implementing below-ground drainage, as well as looking at a range of site-wide renewable energy solutions.

Founded in 1977, the park occupies the estate of the 18th-century Bretton Hall and was the first of its kind in the UK, as well as being the largest in Europe. Its open-air gallery includes works by artists including Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, and also hosts a temporary exhibitions programme. Due for completion in autumn 2018, the visitors' centre is part of a wider strategy to increase visitor numbers and income to help counteract cuts in public funding.