In 2003 Walters & Cohen was shortlisted in the RIBA-run competition for a new art gallery in Wakefield, Yorkshire. Other shortlisted practices were David Chipperfield, Zaha Hadid, Kengo Kuma, Snøhetta and Adjaye Associates.
The gallery nestles among the willow trees on a tranquil bend in the River Calder. People arrive at the site from a new public space to the east or via a new footbridge over the river to the west, entering a glazed double volume arrival space from either side. The glazed north elevation is used to project films, art works and information about events. To the north of this arrival space is a band of steps leading down to the bank of the river, creating an informal meeting space.
To ensure maximum curatorial flexibility, the four principal galleries can be unified or divided into individual rooms. Above each of these is a light funnel, drawing daylight into the spaces. Each funnel is a different height, so visitors experience a sense of compression and release as they move through the exhibitions from smaller link spaces into the airy volumes of the main galleries.
The collection of sculptures by Wakefield-born artist Barbara Hepworth is housed in a gallery cantilevered over the river. This gallery is naturally lit with two glazed walls that connect the sculptures with the Yorkshire landscape that inspired the artist throughout her life.