Café at the Baltic, Gateshead

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Newcastle-Gateshead is one of those rare and wonderful joint ventures [imagine England and Scotland joining together??] that proves the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The river, as with many cities, was rather derelict and forlorn, a mixture of old warehouses and run-down buildings, until a master plan kick-started the Newcastle regeneration in the 1990s. CABE [now sadly disbanded as a cost-saving exercise by the government – sorry, merged with the Design Council] said…

Newcastle’s East Quayside regeneration scheme has created a network of new public spaces and buildings, linked by a waterfront promenade. Designed by Terry Farrell & Partners.

This successful urban waterfront regeneration project, in a dramatic setting on the north bank of the River Tyne, stretching downstream from the Malmaison Hotel, and is linked by the award winning Gateshead Millennium Bridge661a to Gateshead Quays, where the Baltic, a former grain warehouse converted into a new international centre for contemporary art, creates a key visual focal point across the river.

A waterfront promenade runs the length of the scheme, linking together new public spaces and buildings, including offices associated with the nearby Law Courts, a hotel and new waterfront apartments. The promenade is a hub of activity, offering among its attractions restaurant and bar facilities to visitors of all types. The opening bridge gives access across the river to the Baltic by foot and cycle, and both attract large numbers of sightseers.

Sir Terry Farrell started his own practice in 1980, after working very successfully with Nick Grimshaw [now Sir Nick Grimshaw]. His new practice embraced post-modern design, a rather unhappy architectural style exemplified by his projects MI6 Headquarters and Embankment Place London, where the office building spanned over Charing Cross station using a series of 9m deep beams and used the air rights over the station complex. The practice has evolved into a world-class architect-planner team with some wonderful buildings and exciting master plans.

There are so many fabulous parts of the Quayside, on both sides of the river. The Newcastle side boasts Malmaison, the new Law Courts, Pitcher and Piano, whilst Gateshead put its efforts into the world-class venue that is the Sage, designed by Norman Foster, and the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts, the largest gallery in the world, converted from an old flour mill. What a conversion it was, the whole brick structure supported by a steel frame as the interior was gutted and rebuilt. Originally designed by Gelder and Kitchen architects of Hull, Ellis Williams Architects won an open competition for its regeneration. Such is the patronage of Gateshead Council, that the Royal Institute of British Architects awarded it the RIBA Arts Client of the Year in 2005. It’s certainly more popular architecture than Gateshead’s other claim to architectural fame – the car park used to film “Get Carter”.

The Baltic is a wonderful institution, although the art leaves us a bit puzzled each time we go. The latest exhibition, by Lydia Gifford, describes her work as…

Situated on the boundary of completion…

No, we don’t know either. Does it mean unfinished?

More successful is the installation of Daniel Buren, France’s greatest living artist. His work can be seen on two floors, and in the coloured panels on the main facade – see below.

Nonetheless, a fantastic setting, linked to the Newcastle side over the Millennium bridge designed by Wilkinson Eyre, and good food. Mug of Celeriac soup and half a cheese and pickle sandwich anyone?

Gallery, shop and food The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts

The amazing joint venture that is Newcastle Gateshead – and the people of the cities must be the friendliest in the country/UK/universe – even more than Yorkshire.

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The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts

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The new entrance

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View from one of the landings

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…and another view

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View from the bridge to the Tyne Bridge and beyond

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The bridge lifting to let a lightship sail out

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The Baltic, with the light ship

The Trinity car park in Get Carter - now demolished

The Trinity car park in Get Carter – now demolished

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