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The Hepworth, Wakefield, UK

Issue 62 Aug / Sep 2011 : Retail : Museum


Named after Wakefield’s most famous daughter, the brilliant sculptor Barbara Hepworth, this gallery manages to perfectly combine daylighting with artificial illumination.

The Hepworth Wakefield, situated in the conservation area at the headland of the River Calder, is at the heart of Wakefield’s regeneration. Designed by David Chipperfield Architects, it measures 5,000 square metres and is the UK’s largest purpose-built gallery for 50 years. It will act as a catalyst for attracting tourism and has already attracted in excess of £350 million inward investment into the historically important Waterfront area of the city, with its listed mills and warehouses. The new city centre retail development, Trinity Walk, includes a new market hall designed by David Adjaye, and the £140 million transformation of Wakefield Merchant Gate will create a new business quarter for Wakefield.

The gallery takes its name from the world famous sculptor, Barbara Hepworth, who was born in Wakefield in 1903. It will showcase Wakefield’s nationally important collection, which includes major works by Barbara Hepworth and her contemporary Henry Moore, born nearby in Castleford in 1898. The collection also holds key works by other leading British artists including Ben Nicholson, Jacob Epstein, Ivon Hitchens, Graham Sutherland, John Piper, Paul Nash, Patrick Heron, L.S. Lowry and Lucie Rie.

As part of the development there is 650 square metres of temporary exhibition space, making The Hepworth Wakefield one of the largest contemporary art spaces outside London. Eva Rothschild: Hot Touch, an exhibition of new sculptures and photographs, is the first in an on-going programme of major temporary exhibitions by contemporary artists.
Equipped with state-of-the-art education spaces and a flexible auditorium, the Hepworth is also offering a wide-ranging programme of learning projects designed to attract all ages. This includes regular talks, lectures, performances, meetings and screenings, along with a welcoming café bar and a shop located on the ground floor.

The concept of a building made up of several distinct volumes emerged in very early sketches. The Hepworth Wakefield comprises ten discrete but connected trapezoidal blocks of similar height that respond to the scale and rooflines of the surrounding warehouses. Visible from all directions, the building has many facets and no obvious front or back elevation.

The galleries are all located on the upper floor and are sized according to the scale of the works, with smaller rooms for earlier works and larger rooms for contemporary works. The ground floor contains rooms that perform primarily front-of-house functions to offer a performance space, learning studios, public facilities, as well as a shop, cafe and reception.

The main source of daylight in each gallery is from a light slot that runs across the full width of the ceiling at one end of the space. The angle of the roof, which varies from block to block, has been calculated so that each light slot should admit and diffuse light in the best possible way, to provide even illumination and complement the artificial lighting system. Louvres allow light to be completely blocked out if necessary.

At interview stage, David Chipperfield expressed his concerns about the daylighting: “I talked about how there are different ways of bringing daylight into gallery spaces. For example, you can light the room, and you can use windows to orient. Some lighting is to do with trying to light the space and some is about trying to give visitors a connection to what’s outside, so that you are not just in an artificial space.

“Here I suggested that we didn’t try to light the rooms with daylight, because for such a big museum that’s quite complex. In order to control daylight from above you have to have a lot of mechanisms to filter it out. The Hepworth Wakefield is a museum. It’s a permanent collection. So I said that I was interested in bringing light in higher up in the room, where it could not do any damage, so you wouldn’t have to filter it that much, but it would give the visitor a sense of what’s going on in the sky outside. That, combined with windows, might be a strategy for bringing daylight into the building.”

Arup provided natural and architectural lighting design advice to ensure that the gallery’s 44 Barbara Hepworth sculptures and other exhibits are beautifully lit.

Florence Lam, Arup Lighting’s Global Leader, headed the project: “The lighting was designed with two goals – to conserve the gallery’s temporary exhibitions and to present Barbara Hepworth’s dramatic sculptures in the best possible way. One of the aims of the project was to bring the outdoors in - each of the display galleries uses natural light to compliment the sculptures, entering through discrete skylights and vertical windows. This creates a deliberately varied context, allowing a variety of art forms, in different media, to be co-displayed within one room. The play of light in the galleries also greatly enhances the visitor experience.”

To deliver this, Arup’s lighting team developed a ‘light mapping’ tool, to assess the impact of annual light exposure across each display space. This was achieved by working with the curators, to identify the optimum locations in each gallery for art to be displayed. The mapping tool was vital in ensuring all of the exhibits displayed are protected from direct sunlight.

Sunlight directly entering art spaces can cause extremely high illuminance levels and on certain types of artwork these high levels are damaging. Areas of sun also result in extremely high contrasts and can result in visual discomfort. The skylights in the roof are designed and configured to allow indirect, filtered natural light into each gallery space below. The external glazing is made of laminated glass with a diffusing interlayer, which also doubles as a UV filter within the skylight and filters the direct sunlight. A motorised blackout blind is installed to reduce the higher light levels between March and November, while maintaining the experience of external lighting variation throughout the day.

To maintain a view to the outside, transparent glazing is used with a clear UV interlayer to protect sensitive works. Without shading, direct sun falling on the vertical windows during sunny days would give very high light levels in the display galleries and produce distracting patterns of light and shadow on the interior surfaces. To alleviate this, diffusing blinds are deployed and controlled automatically using photocells. Outside the gallery opening hours, blackout blinds are used to cut out unnecessary light exposure on the artwork.

Electric lighting in the galleries is comprised of two lighting elements; concealed cove lighting and track lighting. As daylight fades at dusk, each skylight is subtly illuminated with concealed T5 HO fluorescent luminaires fitted with asymmetric reflectors to provide ambient lighting after dark. In addition, track lighting is provided to accommodate any art location or wall configuration, allowing for the flexibility in illuminating artwork displays. The sloped ceiling poses a challenge in designing the recessed track layout to ensure uniform wallwashing and optimum incident lighting angles on wall-hung artwork. Zumtobel Arcos wallwashers with special sculptural lens were specified to overcome this.
A minimalist theme is adopted for the ground floor lighting with a Viabizzuno 094 system customised to provide an integrated lighting and ventilation solution. Cool while T5 HO lamps are installed to create a crisp runs of parallel light lines across the ceiling for the entrance reception lobby, bookshop and café.

The Hepworth Wakefield, UK
Client: Wakefield Council
Architect: David Chipperfield Architects
Lighting Design: Arup Lighting
Team: Florence Lam, Andrew Sedgwick, Andrew McNeil, Dan Lister and Santiago Torres

Gallery spaces: Zumtobel Arcos 3 spotlights and wall washers
Ground floor public spaces: Viabizzuno 094 fluorescent range


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