Weston, Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s new visitor centre comprises 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 features rammed-earth walls to complement the existing sandstone in the area. They are 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, is built out of stabilised rammed earth on the side of a hill at the Bretton Country Park entrance to the landscaped park. The Weston building was 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 carried out full services design at the high-profile cultural destination, where the building’s internal climate was aimed to be as naturally controlled as possible. The aim was to create a model to achieve sustainable conservation standards within the gallery. A more passive approach was used, involving clever controls which vary the ventilation strategy and heating set-point depending on the gallery and external conditions, and a humidity “buffer” of hygroscopic material helps to stabilise the relative humidity - a key criteria in the conservation of materials. The buffer is made up of air-dried, rather than fired, clay bricks. With an aim to achieve 50% relative humidity, the unfired bricks will absorb more water from the air during periods of high humidity and release it when conditions change, thereby reducing the energy consumption required. Additionally, fans controlled by the Building Management System draw air through the brick arrangement, discreetly supplying and extracting it through slots at high and low levels behind the gallery wall lining.

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 the largest in Europe. Its open-air gallery includes works by artists including Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. The visitors’ centre is part of a wider strategy to increase visitor numbers and income to help counteract cuts in public funding.

Winner of three 2019 RIBA Awards including Client of the Year (Yorkshire Sculpture Park), Yorkshire Regional Award and the Building of the Year Award.