Page D1.2 . 02 April 2003                     
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    Art Center upon Tyne

    continued

    The contractors HBG began construction in September 1999. All the materials had to go in over the top and down the middle through gaps in the space frame, using tower cranes. The four corner towers were built first, then four post-tensioned concrete floors, each spanning the building's 164-foot (50-meter) length and capable of supporting point loads of up to 13.000 pounds (6000 kilograms).

    A separate entrance building and an external "energy center" were bolted on to free up space within the brick shell. Four corner blocks clad in oxidized Corten steel contain the main ventilation plant rooms. Before installation, the large sheets of steel were weathered in a Dutch shipyard for nine months.

    Specialist facade contractor, Space Decks, provided large panels of glass supported by slender, specially commissioned aluminum sections and glass fins to optimize the views over the River Tyne from within the viewing galleries.

    Environmental Controls

    The main heating/ cooling plant, designed by mechanical and electrical engineer, Atelier Ten, is located in the separate energy center to the east. This building houses the boilers, chillers, tanks, and distribution equipment.

    A large combined-heat-and-power unit converts natural gas into heat and electricity. Other features, such as displacement ventilation, heat recovery, and the building's thermal mass, help keep energy consumption to a minimum while maintaining comfort in the high-ceilinged spaces.

    To shut out unwanted glare, a 62- by 26-foot (19- by 8-meter) Teflon-coated "sail," fixed on rails to the outside of the east elevation can be moved horizontally to cover the full-height windows on several floors.

    One unusual task of the project was the removal of the nesting kittiwakes from the original facades. This protected bird species had nested at the Baltic for many years and had to be moved to specially built nesting areas further down the river.

    During construction, the "Kittiwake Tower" was erected temporarily at the Baltic Flour Mill site. Over 100 birds were nesting on it by March 2001. The structure was then moved half a mile (0.8 kilometers) downstream. Within a few weeks, 100 pairs of birds had moved onto the tower in its new location.

    People as well as birds are evidently happy with the new art center, as indicated by its constant stream of visitors. This may be partly because it seems less like a conventional art gallery and more like a tourist destination.

    There have been predictable comparisons to the conversion by Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron of London's Bankside Power Station into the Tate Modern. Each is an old industrial building next to a new "millennium" bridge, but that's where the comparisons should end. The Baltic feels less imposing and more straightforward than the Tate — an amicable, tactile building.

    Don Barker is a freelance writer and photographer in London, UK, who has lived and worked in Europe, Australia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, and Singapore. He is a contributing editor to ArchitectureWeek.

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    ArchWeek Image

    The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art remains a tribute to the region's past, while the Gateshead Millennium bridge nods to the future.
    Photo: Don Barker

    ArchWeek Image

    The curved aluminum roof of the Riverside Building in front of the western face of the Baltic.
    Photo: Don Barker

    ArchWeek Image

    Looking up through the fully glazed ceiling of the corridor between the Riverside Building and the main structure reveals the underside of the fifth-floor cantilevered viewing box.
    Photo: Don Barker

    ArchWeek Image

    Large panels of glass supported by slender aluminum sections and glass fins optimize the views over the River Tyne.
    Photo: Don Barker

    ArchWeek Image

    Three panoramic 21-person elevators race up and down the west face providing passengers with views both into and out of the building.
    Photo: Don Barker

    ArchWeek Image

    A separate "energy center" to the east houses all the building services including a unit that converts natural gas into heat and electricity.
    Photo: Don Barker

    ArchWeek Image

    The Teflon coated "sail" fixed on rails to the outside of the east elevation can be moved horizontally to control daylight.
    Photo: Don Barker

    ArchWeek Image

    The Kittiwake Tower, downstream from the Baltic on the River Tyne, is a new nesting spot for the protected birds.
    Photo: Don Barker

     

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