Hepworth Wakefield boss bemoans losing Stirling Prize

Hepworth Wakefield The Hepworth opened last May and attracted 512,000 visitors in its first year

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The head of the Hepworth Wakefield art gallery has said he was disappointed to lose out on a major architecture award to a building with "an enormous budget in an extremely privileged city".

The Royal Institute of British Architects' Stirling Prize was given to the University of Cambridge's £82m Sainsbury Laboratory on Saturday.

The West Yorkshire art gallery, which cost £35m, was among the nominees.

Director Simon Wallis said the winner "isn't a building that excites me".

Writing on his blog, he said: "I want to be a gracious loser with regard to the Stirling Prize, but it was especially hard to lose to a building with an enormous budget (dwarfing ours) in an extremely privileged city, and a project to which the public barely have access.

Sainsbury Laboratory The Stirling Prize judges praised the Sainsbury Laboratory's "extraordinary degree of sophistication"

"It isn't a building that excites me at all from the photographs I've seen, but of course I reserve full judgement until I do, if I ever do get access!

"It'd be good too if some of the judges of the Stirling Prize were from the north, or lived in the north of England."

He concluded by saying: "Competing for prizes and winning or losing always makes me regress to a mental age of about eight years old… at best!"

The Hepworth, designed by architect David Chipperfield, opened last May and attracted 512,000 visitors in its first year - far outstripping the predicted figure of 150,000.

It was beaten by the Sainsbury Laboratory, a base where 120 botanists work to unlock the secrets of plant development. The Stirling Prize judges praised its "extraordinary degree of sophistication and beauty".

The two-storey building, set in the University of Cambridge's botanic gardens, includes high security laboratories, growing areas and the university's seed store as well as a public areas.

'Inspiring' lab

A spokesman for the university said regular events allowed the public to be involved with the laboratory and its work.

"The lab is keen to inspire the next generation of plant scientists, with several outreach events a year targeting secondary school-aged pupils or their teachers," a statement said.

"There is also a public cafe and an auditorium where seminars, academic symposia and public talks are held."

The other nominees for the Stirling Prize were the Olympic Stadium in London, Belfast's Lyric Theatre, the Maggie's cancer care centre in Glasgow and New Court, the home of the Rothschild bank in the City of London.

Simon Wallis wrote that the Hepworth gallery had "a mission to help open up far wider access to our national cultural resources" and was "successfully creating a very large visitor economy for the region".

It is on course to attract a "sector-leading 400,000" visitors in its second year, he added.

Named after sculptor Barbara Hepworth, its next exhibition will feature more than 30 drawings that Hepworth made in hospitals in the late 1940s, some of which have not been seen in public before.

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