Technical Study: Bretton Country Park, Yorkshire

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At the Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s new visitor centre, Feilden Fowles has made innovative use of rammed concrete, says Amanda Birch

Overlooking bucolic, rolling pastures, the £4m Bretton Country Park Visitor Centre near Wakefield is emerging from its hillside setting. Nestled in the eastern part of the 200ha Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the 670sq m building, which won’t open until September, has a strong connection to its rural surroundings.

Built on a site where an open-cast limestone quarry had operated over a century ago, the building’s low, long form and use of materials respond directly to the landscape. “It’s very much a piece of the landscape and we wanted it to nestle into the quarry and emerge as a clear, manmade intervention,” says Fergus Feilden, director at Feilden Fowles, the architect for the centre. 

Feilden Fowles won an invited competition with its design in 2014 and from the outset the brief was very detailed. The visitor centre had to include a small gallery, restaurant, shop, kitchen and WC facilities, the ambition being to draw visitors to this corner of the park. The estate is already well serviced by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios’ main visitor centre and Tony Fretton Architects’ Longside Gallery. However, the FCB visitor centre is often jam-packed and needs another visitor centre to provide relief.

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