The Sage Gateshead
The Sage Gateshead, viewed from the River Tyne
|Location||Gateshead Quays, UK|
|Type||Centre for musical education, performance and conferences|
|Opened||17 December 2004|
|Construction cost||£70 million|
|Capacity||1,640 (Hall One), 600 (Hall Two)|
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. It is tenanted by the North Music Trust, which for the financial year 2010-11 reported a deficit of £302,761.
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. Foster and Partners were selected following an architectural design competition managed by RIBA Competitions.
Planning for the centre began in the early 1990s, when orchestra of The Sage Gateshead, Royal Northern Sinfonia, with encouragement from Northern Arts, began working on plans for a new concert hall. They were soon joined by regional folk music development agency Folkworks, which ensured that the needs of the region's traditional music were taken into consideration; folk music is well represented in The Sage Gateshead's programme of events, alongside classical, jazz, acoustic, indie, country, world, electronic and dance. Practice spaces for professional musicians, students and amateurs were an important part of the provision.
The planning and construction process cost over £70 million, which was raised primarily through National Lottery grants. The contractor was Laing O'Rourke. The centre has a range of patrons, notably Sage Group which contributed a large sum of money to have the building named after it. Sage plc has helped support the charitable activities of The Sage Gateshead since its conception. The venue opened over the weekend 17 – 19 December 2004.
The Sage Gateshead is also available as a conference venue: for example it hosted the Labour Party's Spring conference in February 2005. It will also be hosting the Liberal Democrat Party conference in March 2012. In August 2009, the National Union of Students announced that their 2010 and 2011 National Conferences would be held at The Sage Gateshead.
The Sage Gateshead contains three performance spaces; a 1,700-seater, a 450-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 acoustic. These three buildings are enclosed (but not touched) by the now-famous glass and steel shell. Hall One was intended as an acoustically perfect space, modelled on the renowned Musikverein in Vienna. Its ceiling panels may be raised and lowered and curtains drawn across the ribbed wooden side walls, changing the sound profile of the room to suit any type of music. Hall Two is a smaller venue, possibly the world's only ten-sided performance space. The building's concourse was designed to be used for informal music-making. Below the concourse level is the Music Education Centre, where workshops, community music courses and day-to-day instrumental teaching takes place in over 20 individual, largely sound-proofed rooms, one of which is also a recording studio.
The building is open to the public throughout the day. Visitors can see rehearsals, soundchecks and workshops in progress. It has five bars, a brasserie, the "Sir Michael Straker Café", and "The Barbour Room" – a multi-purpose function room which holds around 200 people. There was also "ExploreMusic": a technologically well-equipped musical branch of Gateshead public library, stocking books, and current magazines covering all aspects of music, a CD library with listening posts, and computers with free internet access, subscriptions to music websites, and music software. However this was closed in March 2011 owing to funding cutbacks to Gateshead Council, who funded this particular part of the building.
The fact that the main entrance doors to the western end of the building are still not working properly, seven years after the building's opening, was described as "disappointing" by centre general manager Anthony Sargent in the North Music Trust's 2010-11 annual report. As of February 2012 significant work has begun on improving the entire Western entrance to the building, including brand new disabled and fire access doors and reinforced revolving doors. As of March 2012 this has now been completed.
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There has been popular debate surrounding The Sage Gateshead. There is a broad base of local support for the centre, including cross-party backing from local government. Conversely, some feel that the money might be better spent on improving Gateshead's High Street. However, the money made available to the project build via Lottery Grants would not have been used for such general improvements to the area regardless. The building is hugely popular in the local area for its accessible learning courses for all ages and its constant interaction with local schools and academies through programmes such as Sing Up and the option of school visits.
The building itself has its admirers and detractors. While many people; including locals, hold it to be a fine example of Norman Foster's design, others draw comparisons with a large slug. Gavin Stamp, writing as "Piloti" in Private Eye's Nooks and Corners column, suggested that the structure resembles a "shiny condom".
The Sage Gateshead has won many awards, including the Local Authority Building of the Year in the 2005 British Construction Industry Awards and the RIBA Award for Inclusive Design as well as Private Eye's "Hugh Casson" medal for the worst building of 2004.
In addition to performances by The Sage Gateshead's orchestra Northern Sinfonia, many influential and diverse visiting musicians have performed at The Sage Gateshead, including The Acanto Quartet, Clannad, Mitsuko Uchida, Angela Hewitt, Imogen Cooper, Martin Roscoe, Peter Donohoe, Elizabeth Watts, Emma Kirkby, Anthony Rooley, James Brown, George Clinton/Funkadelic, Lesley Garrett, Nancy Sinatra, Shawn Colvin, Goldfrapp, David Crosby and Graham Nash, Julian Cope, The Cinematic Orchestra, Robert Plant, Morrissey, Bob Geldof, Van Morrison, Herbie Hancock, John Scofield, Gilberto Gil, McCoy Tyner, Grace Jones, Jen Stevens and The Hiccups, SunnO))), Lanterns on the Lake, Explosions in the Sky and Elbow. In November 2012, when Lynyrd Skynyrd performed in Hall One, the event sold out within hours of general sale. The Sage Gateshead also encourages non-professional performers too, such as putting on concerts for its Folkworks programme, regular free gigs on the concourse and a yearly concert known as "Homegrown", which is a showcase for bands and artists from its staff.
NUS National Conference
On 18 August 2009, The Sage Gateshead was selected to host the 2010 and 2011 National Union of Students annual conference. The 2010 Annual Conference took place from 13–15 April 2010 and attracted approximately 1,500 student delegates and over 300 observers, exhibitors and media.
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