Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Sage Gateshead

The Sage Gateshead is a centre for musical education, performance and conferences, located in Gateshead on the south bank of the River Tyne, in the north-east of England. It opened in 2004.

The centre occupies a curved glass and stainless steel building designed by Foster and Partners, Buro Happold (structural engineering), Mott MacDonald (building services) and Arup (acoustics), with views of Newcastle and Gateshead Quaysides, the Tyne Bridge, and the Gateshead Millennium Bridge.
The Sage Gateshead contains three performance spaces; a 1,700-seater, a 400-seater and a smaller rehearsal and performance hall, the Northern Rock Foundation Hall. The rest of the building was designed around these three spaces to allow for maximum attention to detail in their acoustic properties. Structurally it is three separate buildings, insulated from each other to prevent noise and vibration travelling between them.
The gaps between them may be seen as one walks around inside. A special 'spongy' concrete mix was used in the construction, with a higher-than-usual air capacity to improve the acoustics. These three buildings are enclosed (but not touched) by the now-famous glass and steel shell.

Freaking incredible design.  Technology to the max, an engineering marvel, and a real puzzler. The horizontals undulate and there are no vertical absolutes.  The steel substructure is fully integrated into the aluminum shell, and the mullions are actually notched for the clips, so no welding was required.  It must have been unitized, though each panel may have been slightly different....quite an amazing thing to behold.  The arc formed building fits well with its site, as there are more arched bridges across the Tyne than any city that I have ever been to.  I even saw a rainbow while looking at the arches!
The building does have an ungainly overall appearance, despite its miraculous design.  I think it indeed resembles a slug, the local moniker for it.  Well, in this case, form truly follows function, and to achieve great acoustics, the shape is what it is, even if it is bulbous and wormlike.

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