Adjaye in Wakefield: A City in Transformation At The Orangery, Wakefield, until 2 February
'There is little of architectural attraction in the planning and buildings of Wakefield, ' said Pevsner. Yet the former county town of the West Riding has a magnificent set of 19th-century public buildings and some good Georgian streets and buildings, including the delightful survivor that houses this exhibition - the Orangery. The 20th century, however, sold Wakefield short.
Post-war development in the centre was of generally execrable quality, with new roads adding to the mess.
David Adjaye's proposed market hall, a fine model of which forms the centrepiece of this exhibition, is set to spearhead the renaissance of a substantial segment of the central area of the city, north of the cathedral (a fine medieval parish church by origin). Here faceless sheds and slabs sprawl along the Marsh Way inner ring road - the market hall site was occupied until recently by a squalid bus station.
A masterplan for the entire area has been developed by the locally based DLA Architecture, based on urban design studies by Koetter Kim and Jan Gehl and with a strong input from Public Arts (which runs the Orangery). Developer Simons has planning consent for a mix of retailing, housing, a new central library and public space on the site. The architecture looks straightforward - it is the spaces around it that will make or break the £175 million scheme.
Adjaye's market hall is the icing on the cake. Costed at around £5 million, it's a no-nonsense structure, partly enclosed, partly just covered open space, which should give local market traders a major boost. Vernacular roots are cited as inspiring the design, but the use of a variety of economical materials, including timber and polycarbonate sheet; the application of strong colour and the management of natural light are all typical of Adjaye's work and entirely appropriate in the context.
The Orangery itself has plans for an extension by SMC Alsop (consented, though not yet funded, despite opposition from English Heritage). The prospects for Alsop's project have probably been enhanced by the emergence of plans (with Carey Jones as architect) for major development around the nearby Westgate station, with the station itself rebuilt - the present facilities are cheapskate 1960s stuff.
David Chipperfield's Hepworth Gallery, due to go on site in 2007, is set to be the jewel in the crown of Wakefield's regeneration programme, building on the success of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park a few miles outside the city.
The quality of the building is not in doubt. The site, close to the River Calder, with some fine Victorian warehouses and the remarkable medieval Bridge Chapel nearby, is impressive but somewhat remote. The key to the project's success is linking the site to the city centre.
Connectivity was an issue ignored in the post-war rebuilding of Wakefield, but one that is now central to the city's renewal.
Kenneth Powell is an architectural journalist