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Tyneside twins


Tow of the great projects of the past decade can be found within yards of each other on the banks of the Tyne in Gateshead.

While the rejuvenation of the quayside that forms the border between Gateshead and Newcastle has been under way since the 1980s, it reached its apogee at the beginning of the 20th Century with the construction of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge and the Sage Music Centre.

First up was the so-called 'winking-eye' bridge.

While its London contemporary got the wobbles, Harbour & General Works sailed a steady course from fabrication of the unique tilting bridge structure in Amec's Wallsend sh ipyard to erect ion on site.

The only delay was one for which the team could not be blamed ? high winds coming off the North Sea.

But when the storms died down in November 2000 the team used a massive floating crane to sail the 850tonne bridge down the Tyne and slide it into place.

Despite the size of the structure it was positioned to within 25 mm of its final position at the first attempt.

The bridge won the Stirling Prize in 2003 and now also provides the perfect link for Geordies to make their way to the south bank of the Tyne to visit the Sage Music Centre.

Built by Laing O'Rourke to a Foster & Partners design, the Sage externally appears to be one single space enclosed in a bulging metallic coat.

But Laing O'Rourke actually saw the project as three separate buildings. This was because the music halls were to be built to previously unheard-of acoust ic specifications. Each was isolated from the rest of the building using a 50 mm acoustic gap on each of the structure's five levels.

The gap prevented any sound passing between the three halls, allowing a raucous rock concert in one hall to proceed without any effect on a woodwind practice session elsewhere in the building. The roof was a task itself with 3,000 bespoke panels, each of which had to be perfectly placed to ensure the streamlined appearance of the exterior.

When the building opened in December 2004, Gateshead proved it was one of the UK's hotbeds for both architectural and construction excellence.