The refurbishment of Wakefield Cathedral’s interior and the laying out of a trail by a community group won the top prizes in Wakefield Civic Society’s 2014 Design Awards. Four other projects, including the new Westgate Station, were presented with commendations in Wakefield Civic Society’s annual awards night staged on Thursday, 11th April. This took place at the Society’s Annual General Meeting, held this year for the first time in the Mechanics’ Theatre within the newly renovated Waterton Building on Wood Street – now part of Wakefield College but formerly the city’s museum.
The new look for the Cathedral (pictured left) was much admired by the Society’s Judging Panel, who agreed that the refurbishment had created a bright, welcoming and attractive space. Acknowledging that the decision to remove the Victorian pews had been controversial with some people, the judges nonetheless felt that the whole look and feel of the interior of the Cathedral was vastly improved. Modern wiring and new lighting enabled the interior to be shown off to great effect while the removal of the pews and levelling of the floor had transformed the Cathedral into an appealing and flexible space that could be used for a variety of purposes from the sacred to the secular.
The Cathedral won the prize in the Best Refurbishment category of the Society’s Design Awards.
Also in this category, the replanting of the Flower Gardens at Thornes Park received a commendation (see photo right). The work had been carried out by the Friends of CHaT Parks, a local community group dedicated to improving the amenities in the park and working in association with Wakefield Council. The Friends group had acquired grants, including one from the Society, to pay for seedlings which they had then nurtured until they were ready for planting out and had worked with the Council’s parks department to design and recreate the sort of colourful floral displays that were once very much a feature of municipal parks throughout the country.
A second commendation was presented in the Best Refurbishment category. This went to Wakefield College for the refurbishment of the former city museum on Wood Street. The building, now managed by the College, has been transformed into a centre for the performing arts and includes a new 150-seater auditorium, the Mechanics’ Theatre, on the first floor (pictured left, photo courtesy of the College). The judges felt that the work had been sympathetically done, providing modern rehearsal and performance spaces as well as class rooms for students at the College.
In the best new build or environmental project, the award went to another community group, the Friends of Newmillerdam Country Park, and Wakefield Council who had worked to create a new trail, the Lawns Dike Trail, which had opened up the Lawns Dike Valley, an attractive but rather boggy area in the park. By laying out a boardwalk with seating, picnic tables, and viewing points, the trail allowed access, including for the disabled, to a previously little used area of the park. The photo right was provided by the Friends group.
Also in this category, the new Westgate Station won a commendation. The judges recognised that the new station was a wonderful new asset for Wakefield and a great improvement on the old station building. It created a very modern gateway for the city and the judges like the way that passengers arriving at the station by train were presented with vistas of the civic buildings on Wood Street through the Merchant Gate development.
The only other property that received formal recognition was the café Marmalade on the Square. Nominated in the category to recognise the public house, café bar or restaurant frontage, the judges felt that this new café had given this corner of the former Grand Clothing Hall building a real lift. The shop front had been painted in a subtle heritage green with neatly done subdued lettering and signage. The removal of the shop window displays from the previous clothing business to occupy the premises, meant that it was now possible to see through the café, opening up views through the double frontage onto both the Bull Ring and Cross Square.
No awards or commendations were given in the Best Shop Front or Best Residential categories. Speaking about the awards, Society President Kevin Trickett said “Once again our awards are likely to be a talking point! Many people will no doubt express surprise at what the judges have, or have not, recognised with either a Design Award or a Commendation. However, the point of the awards is to focus debate on what constitutes good design, both from an aesthetic perspective but also in terms of how these properties fit within the overall context. Our judges look at the impact on the public realm, quality of execution and so on. When we give an award, we set the standard that projects in future years have to beat! I would like to congratulate not only the award winners and runners up but all the nominees who were put forward by our members. That we can run an annual Design Awards scheme is tribute to the fact that from the very biggest and most expensive schemes right through to the very modest community-led schemes, there are people willing to take design quality seriously.
Speaking for the judging panel, Angie de Courcy Bower, who announced the results on behalf of the Society said “Though we are still feeling the consequences of the economic downturn, evidenced by the smaller number of nominations this year, it is heartening that Wakefield is still delivering major new projects of merit such as the new Westgate Station and the refurbishment of the Cathedral interior, as well as local initiatives propelled by the enthusiasm and commitment of community groups and volunteers”.
The full results of the Wakefield Civic Society 2014 Design Awards are:
Best new development
Lawns Dike Trail, Newmillerdam (Friends of Newmillerdam Country Park and Wakefield Council)
Westgate Station (Network Rail and East Coast)
Wakefield Cathedral interior (The Dean and Chapter)
The Waterton Building and Mechanics' Theatre, Wood Street (Wakefield College)
The Flower Garden, Thornes Park (Friends of CHaT Parks and Wakefield Council)
Best Shop Front
No awards or commendations made
Best Public House, Café or Restaurant Frontage
Best Residential Development
No awards or commendations made