The new Henry Moore Institute occupies three converted nineteenth century wool merchants' offices at the end of Cookridge Street. The existing buildings are domestic in character with significant elevations to Cookridge Street and Alexander Street. The conversions had to strike a balance between the retention of existing structure and the particular needs of a sculpture institute.

The four storey buildings naturally divide vertically to give galleries at upper ground floor served by storage and plantrooms at lower ground floor. This leaves the first floor as a study centre and the second floor for administration. The only new building is the main gallery space created by filling in the existing courtyard to Alexander Street. A bridge links the existing Leeds City Art Gallery to the new Institute at first floor level.

The sculpture galleries are simple white spaces with a minimum of detail. Their character comes from the quality of daylight and the contrasting scales of the spaces available within the existing structures. The study centre and the administration floor are detailed in a different manner from the galleries, using natural oak in order to give a relaxed environment in which to work.

To understand the approach to the design of the exterior of the project, one has to look at the recent history of this area of Leeds. The square started as a much smaller public space in front of the Town Hall. Subsequently this square was enlarged by removing a block of city buildings and by shortening Cookridge Street. As a result a number of public buildings now lining the square were never intended to face that direction. The City Art Gallery has already had a new facade added to relate it properly to The Headrow, and the City Library is going to have a new entrance.

As the new Institute occupies the last three properties in Cookridge Street, before the cut that was made in the terrace, the main facade of this group of buildings had been left as a raw unresolved party wall facing the main square of Leeds. There was therefore a special responsibility to complete the series of new facades to The Headrow by making an appropriate main entrance to the Henry Moore Institute.

This new entrance takes the form of a minimalist sculptural idea using the mechanical repetition of flights of steps generated as the ground falls across the frontage. The entrance doors are located in a stone wall placed against the end of the terrace so as to leave explicit the 'cut' made through Cookridge Street to create the enlarged Headrow. The whole entrance structure 5 made of granite used in its various natural forms. The vertical surfaces are all polished and the horizontal surfaces are all 'flamed' to give a contrasting rough texture. A tall eccentrically placed slot in the polished wall marks the entrance behind which is the shallow stepped passage that leads to the galleries.

Whereas the elevation to The Headrow expresses permanence, the elevation to the new gallery filling in the courtyard is intended to look less permanent than the surrounding brick structure. It consists of a grid of bronze frames filled with natural oak and obscure glass and incorporates a pair of giant doors to give access for large sculptures.

Commissioned: 1990
Building Contract - January 1992-February 1994