In a commission for the Yorkshire Sculpture Park at Bretton near Wakefield, Leeds-based practice Bauman Lyons Architects has completed a £1.5 million conversion of three agricultural barns - a former equestrian centre - into a sculpture gallery, creative industry studios, workshops and cafe. It was financed by the Arts Lottery and the European Regional Development Fund.
The barns are on a hilltop site at Longside, across the valley from the YSP's nucleus at Bretton Hall. The new sculpture gallery opens to the public on 26 September with the exhibition 'Caro at Longside', featuring large-scale works by Sir Anthony Caro.
As lower loading values are allowed for agricultural buildings than for those in human use, the existing barns were largely demolished and rebuilt in fair-faced concrete block. This is left exposed inside and finished in red sand cement render outside, so unifying the complex with a pale earth colour. The barns'original concrete portal frames were retained, and are now supplemented by new bracing and purlins.
The 615m 2gallery is lit by skylights, a clerestory on either side, and a flush panoramic window across the full width of its valley-facing facade.
In one off-centre bay the window extends upwards, focussing attention directly back to Bretton Hall and bringing views of the sky in addition to the broad sweep of hills.The asymmetrical placement of this tall window creates a strong diagonal axis in the gallery, while the new glazing adds refinement to what still looks to be a utilitarian building, whose former agricultural role is not in doubt.
The inaugural Caro exhibition, reflecting his exploration of the boundary between sculpture and architecture, is installed both in this gallery and in the even larger adjacent space (which will not normally be open to the public).The latter is dominated by his 33m-long Goodwood Steps, down almost the entire central axis; over-dominated, in fact, as it tends to diminish the substantial works around it, which are of more sculptural interest.
In the permanent gallery, Caro exploits the diagonal axis, leading the visitor on a passage through three linked, staggered, ziggurat-like forms made of railway sleepers to his Child's Tower Room, placed close to the tall window - you can squeeze up it and peer out at the landscape beyond.
But more impressive are the works in which Caro is not so literally 'architectural'. Visitors may know some of his 'table sculptures': apparent conjuring tricks in which deftly welded elements are suspended in mid air. Here, however, gravity - the weight and mass of steel - is emphasised, not denied.Severe four-square sculptures like Night and Dreams and All Night Long keep the viewer firmly at bay, while the wall-like Egyptian is even more defensive, a narrow cavity inside suggesting concealment.
Unlike Goodwood Steps, these best works do not disclose themselves at once but demand investigation. Some of their features - shelves, ledges, platforms - look vaguely functional but they never simply replicate the world of use.Back in the 1960s, Caro often finished his sculptures in bright coats of paint; in these recent pieces, colour is still a component, but in steel's muted spectrum of tan-russet-brown.
'Caro at Longside'continues until 31 March 2002.Bauman Lyons' buildings are part of a larger masterplan for the development of the YSP, including a new visitor centre by Feilden Clegg Bradley scheduled to open next spring.
CLIENT Yorkshire Sculpture Park
ARCHITECT Bauman Lyons Architects
STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Michael Heal Associates
CONTRACTOR Galliford (Northern)