Its mid-May already and in just few days Rita will have her artworks exhibited at Worcestershire County Hall, being a part of Art in County Hall project that showcases local artists to general public at the picturesque local government building. Art in County Hall is an impressive project – bringing together unusual space and artists that make the Worcester scene a vibrant one. Rita cannot be more proud to be participating. We will make few posts about the project naturally as we want to show you the space and the exhibition itself.
We will start off with The County Hall itself as we love the building and how it works. It is an absolute gem and the surrounding grounds/public park are worth visiting as well. There will be many pictures in this post as we tried to show you the space from every angle. But if you prefer a bit of reading, you won’t be disappointed. We had a visit to the Worcestershire County Archives and they found us an article from 1990 about the building and how it was designed. Fascinating reading it is.
Plus usual links, dates, maps and directions – one happy package.
So let us begin:
The home of Worcestershire County Council is one of few public buildings in this part of the UK representing brutalist architecture (think Barbican Centre in London for comparison). It was designed for short-lived Hereford and Worcester County Council and located at the semi-rural “E Edge” of the Worcestershire.
Although the building itself was completed between 1974-1978 under the careful eye of its architect – Robert Matthew of Johnson – Marshall & Partners, the plans for the complex were ready as early as 1972.
The Hall became house for Worcestershire County when Hereford and Worcester County Council ceased to exist in 1998. Built in red and brown brick, The County Hall was opened for further expansions (which ultimately did not happen if you don’t count few annexes like boiler room) and was considered both innovative and surprisingly ecological for its era.
How brilliant the design was for late 70s – you can tell from good practice case study quoted below. We have to admit, we were impressed by the amount of work put into the concept! It is a very early model of an “intelligent building” making use of solar energy depending on the season and turning elements of the façade into blind shades. Outworldy, genius and futuristic in the same time. It is like architectural version of a Doctor Who episode!
County Hall building consists of three connected parts:
- “Central Section” includes reception, IT help desk, public areas, meeting rooms and Riverside Café open for visitors and staff.
- “Two wings” or “Houses” include offices, Registrar’s Office, offices of main political parties, gallery passage and the Council Chamber.
County Hall grew very quickly after its inception. Since 1977, many of the buildings owned by Council in the centre of Worcester have been vacated and the staff moved to County Hall campus. In 1985 the Record Office moved to a purpose-built building added to the site.
Today the main campus includes The Hall itself, Record Office annex, eight car parks (682 spaces for County workers and another 96 reserved spaces), boiler room, a bus stop, large public grounds/park and a lake. It is a site for over 3000 workers daily.
The campus boarders Worcester Woods Country Park and the grounds are home for multiple wild animals (hares, squirrels, badgers, terrapin turtles) and birds (swans, crows, robins, wild ducks, seagulls and even herons). We will not count the amount of species of flowers and trees – but thanks to its unique ecological value, the campus is often referred to as “Worcester lungs”.
The grounds are very well preserved and offer many surprising features, beyond the lake. If someone was to take a stroll around the area – they would encounter jogging paths, a big fountain (called The Flat Fountain by locals), a pond with a brick bridge, a herb and flower garden and a huge weeping willow.
You can also find many sculptures scattered among the campus: dancers, capoeira fighters and even a heron eating a fish.
Being an important business and public place, County Hall has an easy access from city center and from the nearest highway network (M5). You can see the directions from the attached leaflet.
And once you arrive on site, you can use the following map of the campus
If you are still not fully convinced that County Hall campus is one green and living organism, please have a look at the panoramas we had done. They may convince you that Worcestershire has one of the best landscaped sites in the United Kingdom and its County Hall deserves at least a Grade II of protection.
The Gallery at County Hall
Gallery at County Hall is formed by large circular public space outside of The Council Chamber. The Gallery passage contains three large wall spaces each being 7 meters wide and 3 meters high. There are also two cabinets approximately 6ft high by two feet which can exhibit 3D work.
This space is recently being used to host art exhibitions promoting local artists and showcasing works from students of a nearby University of Worcester under the Art in County Hall. We cannot offer you a virtual tour of the place but we can surely show you a 360 degrees view via images.
Both Rita and I believe that Art in County Hall project offers a lot of potential. Just think, County Council is Worcestershire biggest employer, with over 5000 employees. Nearly 3000 people are present daily at the site. That is a large crowd of those potentially interested in art and a good public for upcoming local artists. Moreover County Hall acts as a hub for business meetings, political parties, it is so to say – the headquarters for the councillors. By its very nature it brings together business and funding and is a place where decisions (also about art) are being made. Art and culture are hardly invited to such places of power, they usually remain in the galleries or museums which are not places where political decisions are forged. It kind of marginalizes art in a way.
At the County Hall the division is broken down – art is exhibited in the very heart of the building, for everybody to see. It is hard to pass it and not notice it. And once the art is noticed, it cannot be left out of the equation. It becomes a part of the scene – not just a fancy background. Bringing together artists, businesses and local government can only create a positive environment – a platform where a true discussion about the role of art in today`s society can begin. Simple, yet revolutionary idea.
There is also another dimension to the project. We often look up to fancy and very expensive centres –like Microsoft campus in Seattle or Googleplex (headquarters of Google) in California, with its smart buildings, environmental friendly surroundings and secretly wish we had something similar in close proximity. We often forget that we have fantastical sites near us, with unique buildings and public parks like the County Hall campus. Those places can be morphed into real epicentres for the community with just a bit of love and creativity. And that is what art does the best.
We hope you enjoyed this small tour of the County Hall. We will now proceed to pack the artworks into the suitcases – as tomorrow is a setting up day.
We will see you soon.