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The Sage

The Sage

Commercial & Public Access Winner 2005

Location: London
Client/Owner: Gateshead Council
Architect: Foster & Partners
Structural Engineer:  Mott MacDonald
Main Contractor/Builder: Laing O’Rourke
Joinery: Abrahams & Carlisle, Benchmark, M&M Plasline
Wood Species: Hall One: American Ash & European Birch, Hall Two: Stained European Birch, Rehearsal Hall: European Birch

The Sage Gateshead opened officially to the public on 17 December 2004. It fulfils three demanding criteria: to create an international centre for musical performance and education, with acoustically excellent auditoria and unparalleled teaching facilities; a major public building, and a centrepiece for the regenerated Gateshead Quays area.

Each auditorium was conceived as a separate enclosure but the windswept nature of the site suggested a covered concourse along the waterfront to link them. As a result the entire complex is sheltered beneath a broad, enveloping roof that is ‘shrink-wrapped’ around the buildings beneath and extends over the concourse. Containing cafés, bars, shops, an information centre and the box office, the concourse is an inclusive and accessible public space.

The auditoria, a 1650-seat concert hall, a 400-seat performance space and a rehearsal hall were designed for the optimum acoustic performance. Fundamental room dimensions, shaping and modelling of the wall surfaces, material selections and construction methods area range of techniques employed to strike the perfect balance necessary to achieve a unique blend of classic and modern acoustics.

The design team worked extensively to ensure the acoustic performance of each auditorium was complimented by its interior design. A palette of curved and profiled solid ash, moulded plywood, and rich cloth is used throughout, with each auditorium distinguished by colour to complete a trio of interiors – golden yellow, deep red and dark blue – that are warm and inviting.

Hall One is the centrepiece and its volume is calculated to provide the optimum acoustics for a symphony orchestra. Based on a classic “shoebox” hall, the object was to provide the highest technical performance. All timber surfaces in the room are shaped to provide the best sound diffusion. The timber is either very thick and/or directly bonded to the concrete structure to prevent unwanted low-frequency sound absorption. Wall surfaces incorporate a convex curvature (for low frequency diffusion) and the timber battens diffuse the middle and high frequency sounds. All other surfaces including the balcony fronts and ceilings also incorporate curvature and shaping to help promote sound diffusion.

The innovative design for Hall Two’s high ceilinged, galleried space to seat 450 on three levels consists of a five-sided form at stage level breaking into ten sides above. The decagon form of the hall achieves the acoustical requirements of close wall surfaces for early sound reflections, narrow balconies, exposed side walls and deep volume for excellent natural acoustics, in an intimate setting.

The Northern Rock Foundation Hall, a smaller shoe-box hall designed as the primary rehearsal space for Northern Sinfonia, is designed so that the natural acoustic is closely matched to the platform of Hall One, ensuring minimum change when the musicians move from one to the other. The natural acoustic is also outstanding for small groups of performers and can accommodate an audience of between 200-300 people seated. The walls are lined with deeply profiled natural timber panelling against a rich blue coloured background.