I had been contemplating to visit the award-winning Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield Gallery for ages.

I love visiting galleries and museums and, as an architecture and urban designer, I draw inspiration from paintings, sculptures and installations – and most are free entry. And my little one can always have safe, spacious and stimulating places to explore.

The Hepworth had been on my visiting list for a long time, not because of it is named after, and houses much work of, the late English artist Barbara Hepworth or that it has a really good collection of Henry Moore’s sketches and bronze sculptures but because it is one of David Chipperfield’s most outstanding buildings (albeit with a £35m price tag).

As is my won’t, I slept through most of the car journey so when we had already arrived in the town centre and were almost there, my eyes opened.

To be frank, the townscape of Wakefield really isn’t that pretty. It appears to be a typical post-industrial town characterised by the dominant form of last century bridges and a series of meaningless, low rise and more often than is comfortable, abandoned buildings

We found the visitor’s car park over the (minor) road from the gallery by following the somewhat erratic signage.

On exiting the car we simply crossed the road and were guided across a long, modern footbridge towards the gallery with ever-increasing excitement!


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The View from North West / photo by Tia TianTheHybridMill-The Hepwroth-wakefield-grey.jpg

The Footbridge Over the River / photo by Tia Tian

And here it is; the scale of the building is warm and comfortable and, even though it is accentuated by the use of coloured in-situ concrete, you really don’t catch the coldness.

The building is exposed on all sides without being defined by road or river and the building form is without any dominant façade.

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The View From Foot Bridge / photo by Tia Tian

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The Site Plan / photo from https://davidchipperfield.com

The composition is a tightly integrated – expressed through various irregular blocks – and the forms are driven by the internal layout of the gallery spaces.  Their volumes are unique and together they coalesce as if a single space.


The Courtyard View from Foot Bridge /  photo by Tia TianTheHybridMill-The Hepwroth-wakefield-entrance.jpg

The View to the Entry / photo by Jonathan Ladd

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Building Study Model  

The building is in two stories. The first floor is primarily for exhibitions, both fixed and peripatetic.  The reception level (ground/entry level) contains the shop, cafeteria, auditorium and learning studio as well as offices and back-of-house areas including the archive, storage and loading bay.

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Building Ground  and First Floor Plan / photo from https://davidchipperfield.com


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The Exhibition Area at First Floor / photo from https://davidchipperfield.com

Entering the building I was pleased by the use of the natural light and the framing of the windows on the upper floor.

The architectural/design ambience does not impact at all on what is displayed inside. And the eight irregular block-forms create a very natural and peaceful space for the works and for the visitor to wander (and wonder) around.

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 The Exhibition Area at First Floor / photo by Tia Tian

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The Art Work / photo by Tia Tian

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An (anti-sculpture) Toy Doll over the canal / photo by Tia Tian

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