Feilden Clegg Bradley's new £3.5 million 'underground gallery' at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP), near Wakefield, opened last week and looks set to be loved by both artists and the public. It's 'underground' in the sense that it has minimal impact on the existing landscape, being cut into the slope of the 19th-century Bothy Garden and turf-roofed. Seen from the top of the garden, it looks like a neat patch of lawn detached from the slope by the equivalent of a ha-ha to keep visitors off the roof.
While 'underground' might suggest something with low ceilings, constant artificial light and a possibly oppressive sense of enclosure, none of this is true of this new building. It provides almost 600m 2 of exhibition space in one large, high, oblong gallery flanked by two smaller, squarer, but still spacious ones. When the heavy wooden sliding doors to the galleries are open, light comes in through the fully glazed wall on the south, but it also enters through a long, continuous 1.5mwide rooflight at the north.
In this, the galleries score over those in two recent high-profile US projects, New York's new Museum of Modern Art and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, in both of which natural light is in very short supply. On a sunny day, artificial light can be kept to a minimum, supplied from tracks between the ceilings' concrete beams. But the rooms can be completely blacked-out if necessary, as for a forthcoming show of light works by James Turrell.
The gallery is accessed down a flight of steps directly out of the visitor centre, which the practice completed in 2002. It is parallel to a long, clipped, yew hedge, which serves almost like the gallery's outermost wall, a backdrop for sculptures displayed on the broad strip of grass in-between.
Funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Yorkshire Forward, this finely conceived and executed building cements YSP's happy marriage of architecture, art and landscape.
The inaugural show, an impressive retrospective of sculptures and paintings by William Turnbull, runs until 9 October.