In The Foster team, led by Spencer de

In 1997
architects were invited to submit three panels outlining how they might
approach the project and from this group six firms were asked to present more
detailed proposals. The Foster team, led by Spencer de Grey, Robin Parlington
and Jason Flanagan, won the competition and having done so, their first move
was to start afresh, recognising the need for detailed input from all the
different user groups, as well as crucial consultants such as acousticians and
stage design specialists.


Early on
the client appointed Arup Acoustics and Bob Essert, of Sound Space Design as acousticians
and Theatre Projects to advise on the design of the halls and their stages.
Together with the client and the architects, these consultants toured concert
halls in the UK and the Europe, to learn first-hand form precedent and get
better idea of what sort of hall would work best here.

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these investigations t became clear that two halls were needed. One would be a
full-sized concert hall, the other a smaller, more intimate hall for folk,
jazz, chamber music and other sorts of performances. Although the bigger hall
would be able to serve all these too. There would also be rehearsal room, large
enough to accommodate a full orchestra, which could be also used for
performances and various other functions and form the physical focus of the
Music Education Centre.


“We got to the point in
design where we had the three halls in a line and had made these roof templates
but had no way of modelling them quickly, so we just dressed it in tights. Not
brown ones – they looked terrible on the model – but black! Norman saw it and
thought it was fantastic, but wrong – and he was right. The idea of the
enveloping enclosure and the scoops into the concourse were great entrances and
the cutaway meant we reduced the building mass, but he saw that the roof should
float over the halls, instead of pulling in close like the tights” Jason Flanagan, formerly of Foster +
Partner, in an interview.


Spencer de Grey
describes Gateshead Council as an ‘inspirational client’. Starting with the
angel of the North, followed by the Millennium Bridge, then the Baltic and
finally the Sage, they have promoted a string programme of urban regeneration
through arts. Central to the success of any cultural building is the early
involvement of those who will use it and bring it to life. The Northern Music
Trust was already in place with representatives of the Northern Sinfonia,
Folkworks and Northern Arts able to play a key role in the development of the
design. This was an unusual broad-based client body, which explains much about
the spirit that informs the design of the building. 


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