No. 534 . 28 September 2011 
ArchitectureWeek

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At the same time as the Sage Gateshead by Foster + Partners succeeds as an expressionist modern "object in the landscape," it also seems to succeed at meshing with a multilayered civic context. Photo: Nigel Young/ Foster + Partners

The Sage Gateshead by Norman Foster

by Anthony Sargent

At the time the Sage Gateshead opened in 2004, Foster + Partners was often asked by the media whether they had set out to create a new icon for Tyneside — the conurbation that includes Newcastle, Gateshead and adjacent cities on the banks of the River Tyne.

The architects replied that their overriding intention had been to create a series of spaces that would prove functionally and aesthetically hospitable to a range of carefully specified uses.

In that aim the design team has triumphantly succeeded, but they have also created — whether or not it was their intention — an inspiring new emblem for the ongoing cultural renaissance of Newcastle–Gateshead, where over £250 million has been spent in eight years creating five completely new cultural institutions and vividly characterized refurbishments of six more.

Like the Swiss Re building in London, the Sage Gateshead peeps into view from innumerable vantage points on Tyneside, sometimes all of it visible, sometimes partially but unmistakably glimpsed between other buildings — or, teasingly, for seven seconds from the Edinburgh-bound trains as they leave Newcastle.

Not unlike the sea 15 minutes away, the perpetual dancing miracle of the roof with its 3,000 linen-finished steel panels offers an almost infinite juxtaposition of colors and patterns as the changing light falls on them.   >>>

Anthony Sargent is the founding general director of the Sage Gateshead.

This article is excerpted from The Sage Gateshead by Anthony Sargent and Peter Buchanan, copyright © 2010, with permission of the publisher, Prestel.

 

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