Plans revealed for the Hepworth Riverside Garden

PUBLISHED: 15:45 27 November 2015 | UPDATED: 15:45 27 November 2015

The cascading River Calder provides a suitably dynamic backdrop for the gallerys ambitious new garden project

The cascading River Calder provides a suitably dynamic backdrop for the gallerys ambitious new garden project

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Leading gallery celebrates its anniversary with a new riverside garden in Wakefield

The quartet of garden designs shortlisted for The Hepworth Wakefield’s anniversary projectThe quartet of garden designs shortlisted for The Hepworth Wakefield’s anniversary project

The Hepworth Wakefield has packed a lot in to five short years. In fact, it’s hard to believe it’s still such a relative newcomer to Yorkshire’s cultural vanguard, such is its strength of purpose and clarity of ambition.

The 5,000sq m light-filled gallery, designed by renowned architect David Chipperfield, was constructed by January 2010 and completed a year later. It cost £35m – an enormous sum by anyone’s estimation, but a staggering amount for a small city like Wakefield.

It was, however, a bold move that paid off in handsome style. The gallery achieved its original first year target of 150,000 visitors (a nationally benchmarked figure) within its first five weeks of opening and welcomed its one millionth visitor in December 2013. It has also helped to secure significant private sector funding to restore the surrounding listed mills and warehouses in this important conservation area and has acted as a vital catalyst for tourism; putting it at the very heart of Wakefield’s continuing £350m regeneration.

Now, it’s gearing up its landmark fifth anniversary in typical ambitious style, not with a cake or a few balloons but with a new riverside public garden that will stretch to an impressive 6,000sq m along the Calder.

Four of the world’s leading garden designers and visionary landscape architects are vying for the chance to create The Hepworth Riverside Garden. Christopher Bradley Hole (in a joint submission with Brita von Schoenaich), Tom Stuart-Smith, Cleve West and Peter Wirtz have, between them, won an impressive 16 gold medals and six coveted ‘best in show’ award at RHS Chelsea Flower Show, so it’s safe to say they know one end of a trowel from the other.

But will their work impress the Wakefield – and greater Yorkshire – public? We’ll soon know as their designs have been displayed on garden sheds outside the gallery throughout October, with residents, visitors and supporters invited to give their feedback.

Their views will be considered by a formal judging panel later this year and a decision announced in early 2016 to coincide with Visit England’s Year of the English Garden, when a fundraising campaign will be officially launched.

‘It’s wonderful to be able to share our vision for the Wakefield waterfront,’ said Jane Marriott, deputy director of the gallery and member of the garden judging panel. ‘We have huge ambitions for our milestone year, during which we hope to create a new visitor attraction and public space for the city.’

David Liddiment, chairman of The Hepworth Wakefield Trust and chairman of the judging panel, said he believed the riverside addition would reflect Yorkshire’s wider passion for gardens, adding: ‘We felt it was important to work closely with a leading garden designer, whose ambitions matched that of the architect David Chipperfield to create a cohesive and inspiring landscape.’

Best-selling author, gardening expert and vice-chairman of the Wakefield and North of England Tulip Society Anna Pavord has also been called on to judge the shortlisted submissions.

‘It’s a thrilling site, with the river charging over the weir and the wonderful old mill buildings sheltering it to the south,’ she said. ‘I have been coming to Wakefield for many years to marvel at the gorgeous English Florists’ tulips grown by members of the Tulip Society. Now I shall look forward to an extra delight: the Hepworth Wakefield blooming with trees and flowers where before there were none.’

It’s also important to remember the artist whose work inspired the gallery in the first place, Barbara Hepworth, and her passion for nature.

‘The Yorkshire landscape was a hugely important part of Barbara Hepworth’s creative life, influencing her sculptures and their settings,’ explained Simon Wallis OBE, director of the gallery.

‘It’s fitting, therefore, that we create a natural environment that would have inspired her, and that will have a rewarding all-year-round dialogue with our superb building and art collection.’

The four gardens

:: Christopher Bradley Hole and Brita von Schoenaich want to create a space that can be enjoyed by lone visitors as a comfortable, welcoming sanctuary that changes with the seasons.

They envisage plants that move and rustle in the wind in an enclosed garden, reminiscent of medieval and renaissance art, that provides shelter and security.

:: Tom Stuart-Smith’s garden design is a modern, romantic response to the gallery’s post-industrial location and robust surrounding mill buildings.

It includes a variety of open spaces around a gatehouse building on a lawn, with large beech and pin oak trees creating a bookend effect at the furthest reaches of the site.

:: Cleve West’s submission uses Barbara Hepworth’s sculptures as inspiration for softer, rounded forms that sit well within the landscape and offer an interesting contrast with the angular nature of the gallery building.

The plan also expresses the textile thread made in the adjacent mills and the moorland of Yorkshire that Hepworth knew as a child and the Cornwall landscape of her adult life.

:: Peter Wirtz offers the visitor a new perspective of The Hepworth Wakefield, framing it as if was a pavilion in a garden, an unexpected gem in the park.

He offers a deep colour palette and strong leaf textures as a rich contrast to the gallery’s largely grey aspect. He also veils the busy main road with crab apple trees and mounds of rosemary willow.

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