Monday, 31 October 2011

Hepworth Wakefield and Brockholes

A trip to the north of England took in two recent projects, one from each side of the Pennines - each an excellent and widely published building: David Chipperfield's Hepworth gallery at Wakefield, and Adam Khan's Brockholes visitor centre next to junction 31 of the M6.

Le Corbusier called architecture the 'masterly, correct and magnificent play of masses brought together in light'.  Many projects don't offer much opportunity for that kind of thing, and nor are most clients necessarily seeking it, but here, in both cases, the opportunity has been taken for 'shapemaking' on an impressive scale.

Wakefield and Brockholes both bring together assemblies of variations on a single form - an implied 'house' - to form a powerful and memorable composition. Each has a watery site that is both difficult (gritty regeneration context at Wakefield, reclaimed gravel pits at Brockholes), and also full of promise in the dramatic opportunities offered.

It was particularly pleasing at Wakefield to find that the new footbridge across the river had been delivered as part of the project to provide the main pedestrian link from the town centre, avoiding the horrors of the main road - because there have been countless regeneration projects on cut-off sites all over England that have been predicated on 'aspirational' new bridges over road, railways or rivers,  that are left to someone else to pay for and which never appear.  Brockholes is approached over a bridge too - what was most pleasing here was the lack of guarding to stop you falling in the water - surprising to find in our nervous, cossetted, risk-averse age.  But each of these projects as a whole is challenging and risky compared with what might have been done - the clients deserve prizes as much as the architects. 

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