As part of the Concrete Centre’s annual celebration of interesting developments and projects in the world of concrete Greg Nordberg and Fergus Feilden of Feilden Fowles presented the stratified concrete walls of the Weston Centre at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
The Weston Centre at Yorkshire Sculpture Park will open to the public in March 2019, It is a visitors centre comprising a gallery, café and ancillary spaces situated at the eastern entrance of the park occupying the site of a former small open cast quarry. The external walls of the building play a key role in the architectural premise of the building as landscape, as the threshold between the infrastructure of the M1 and the Huddersfield Road and the serenity of the park. Inspired in part by land art including Observatory by Robert Morris (1970), the walls adopt a defensive posture on the edge of the quarry punctured only by the main entrance that offers views across the park and affords access to the sheltered amphitheatre formed by the curve of the glazed café and the bank of earth terraced with boulders extracted from the site while forming the foundations.
The external walls seem hewn from the rock they emerge from the slope of the quarry. This is achieved by using concrete poured in short lifts and jet-washing the surface to expose the aggregates. The layers used different aggregates, granite, limestone and sandstone, obtained from local quarries, and pigments responding to the tones of the local earth and stone. This form of construction allowed the works to be tendered to standard concrete contractors, installed with minimal temporary works, eliminated movement joints, and allowed the walls to be constructed in a reduced period relative to other forms of layered construction. Crucially for the sculptural nature of this building, the durability offered by this construction method allowed the walls to be taken into the ground and the building to have only a modest coping. The jet-washing was something of an artisanal process, with the operatives developing an understanding of what was desired and how the material responded. The mixes for the layers differ in hardness and so some were eroded more by the jet washing than others, allowing layers lines to be picked out or blended. The rough texture of the walls contrasts with the polished terrazzo of the internal floor and 4m tall curtain walling of the Café and allows them to respond to light and weather conditions similarly to the ground from which they emerge.
Credit - Courtesy Yorkshire Sculpture Park