The University was pleased to welcome Dr Sophie Bowness, granddaughter of the Wakefield sculptor, to the ‘topping out’ ceremony of its new building.  Dr Bowness gave permission for the University to use the name of her grandmother for the name of the new structure, the Barbara Hepworth Building, due for completion in 2019.

Morgan Sindall's Pat Boyle, University Vice-Chancellor Professor Bob Cryan and Dr Sophie Bowness Pictured at the 'topping out' ceremony (l-r) Morgan Sindall's Managing Director for Construction, Pat Boyle, the University's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Bob Cryan, and Barbara Hepworth's granddaughter, Dr Sophie Bowness.

CONSTRUCTION of the University of Huddersfield’s new £30 million centre for the study of art, design and architecture is months ahead of schedule, and it has witnessed an unusual “topping out” ceremony conducted by the granddaughter of Dame Barbara Hepworth, the famous artist who has given the building its name.

Dr Sophie Bowness – who is an art historian and a trustee of the world-famous Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield – was invited to turn a bolt on one of the 146 aluminium panels that will be fixed to the glazed walls of the new building.  Their function will be to reduce solar glare, but architects AHR have ensured that they are also an artistic adornment.

One of the great sculptors of the 20th century, Barbara Hepworth, who lived from 1903 to 1975, was born and educated in Wakefield.  She relocated to Cornwall for the latter part of her career, but remained proud of her Yorkshire roots. She was the first choice to be commemorated by the new University of Huddersfield building and at the topping out ceremony Vice-Chancellor Professor Bob Cryan thanked Dr Bowness – whose books and articles include analyses of Barbara Hepworth’s artworks – for giving permission to use her grandmother’s name.

The ceremony was attended by key figures from building firm Morgan Sindall – including its Managing Director for Construction, Pat Boyle – and from architects AHR.  There were also lecturers and researchers from the University’s School of Art, Design and Architecture, including the Dean, Professor Mike Kagioglou, and a team from the Estates and Facilities Department, including Director Colin Blair and Assistant Director Tim Hosker.

After Dr Bowness had carried out the ceremony, Professor Cryan said that the University’s policy of naming buildings after famous local people was designed to inspire students, and the legacy of Barbara Hepworth would be sure to do that.

“When we started the design of the building, my brief was very simple – it’s got to make me go ‘wow’.  And it has done!” continued Professor Cryan.

“This university is all about lighting the fires of passion in the next generation of students and if you come and study in an environment like this you are bound to be excited.  The experience they will have here in this building is something that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”

Professor Cryan praised the “dream team” from Morgan Sindall who had ensured that construction work was nine weeks ahead of schedule.  The Barbara Hepworth Building will be completed in the spring and be ready for use at the start of the 2019 academic year.