Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s new £3.6million visitor centre – to be known as The Weston as a result of significant support from family grant-maker, The Garfield Weston Foundation – will open to the public on Saturday 30 March 2019.
Built on a historic quarry site within the 18th-century Bretton Estate, The Weston will upgrade the visitor experience at the East Entrance to the Park. The beautiful, light-filled building is designed by architects Feilden Fowles and constructed by Yorkshire-based company William Birch. It will increase 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 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 YSP’s long-term financial sustainability”.
The Weston is carefully designed to have minimum impact on the site and, in common with previous YSP 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 motorway and forms a sheltered, sunken terrace with views across the Park towards the Lower Lake and Bretton Hall.
Naturalistic planting, including a wild-flower roof, designed by Jonathan Cook Landscape Architects, is inspired by 19th-century Yorkshireman and plant adventurer, Reginald Farrer. Well insulated and naturally ventilated, the centre also features an air-source heat pump and a pioneering low-energy environmental control system which uses a passive humidity buffer to maintain favourable gallery conditions.
The centre will enhance 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 will showcase a changing programme of temporary exhibitions, with an interactive project by the important Indian artists Thukral and Tagra inaugurating the space.
The project is supported by Arts Council England, Wakefield Council, The Garfield Weston Foundation, Dunard Fund, The Foyle Foundation, The Sackler Trust, The Wolfson Foundation, B&M Retail Plc, The Arnold Burton Charitable Trust, The John S Cohen Foundation, Mtec, The Holbeck Charitable Trust, Catkin Pussywillow Charitable Trust, and other funders who wish to remain anonymous. Visitors to the Park have also contributed over £50,000 in donations to the project.
Peter Murray CBE, Executive and Founding Director of YSP said: “We’re excited to complete construction on The Weston which is an important part of Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s future. The new centre is a reflection of our ambition to increase long-term resilience and sustainability by building audiences, further developing our artistic programme, and increasing visitor income. We are very grateful to the many different organisations who have made this project possible, including our visitors who have provided invaluable support.”
Fergus Feilden, Director, Feilden Fowles said: "It is an honour to work on a new building within the historic setting of the Bretton Estate and be amongst such esteemed architectural and artistic company. The centre aims to be a timeless building derived from the particularities of place and sculptural land art influences.
“This is our first realised public project making it all the more exciting. It is materially rich, deploying natural materials which have particular textures, patinas and earthy qualities making the building very much of its place and the land from which it is formed. We have thrown ourselves into the material research, numerous mock ups and large-scale trial panels to achieve the textures, tones and tactile qualities.
“This project will be transformational to the visitor experience of the eastern part of the Sculpture Park and offer something completely unique to future visitors.”
Gemma Shahjahan, Business Development Director of William Birch said: “Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a huge asset to the arts and leisure scene in the Yorkshire region and construction of The Weston has allowed us to be part of the next exciting phase in the journey of the Park. The project has also been a great opportunity for our apprentices to work on such a prestigious and much-loved visitor attraction local to them. We all very much look forward to unveiling the new facilities.”