Case study: Gateshead Sage

Case study: Gateshead Sage

Published on Wednesday, July 11, 2018

One of our “claim to fame” projects at Duffield Timber is the involvement we had with the construction of Gateshead Sage. Many would say it’s one of the most beautiful, technical pieces of architecture in the country; having played a crucial role in its construction, we definitely agree!

The Project Brief

An iconic landmark on the banks of the River Tyne, the £70 million Gateshead Sage is one of the UK’s most popular venues for conferences and events; for weddings, exhibitions, awards ceremonies, large or small scale meetings and more. It was completed and opened in December 2004.

The Gateshead Sage’s main concert hall is aptly named the Sage One. Split over three tiers, with a capacity of 1,650, its design is partially modeled on the beautiful, renowned Wiener Musikverein in Vienna, Austria - pictured below. As such as unique piece of architecture, to take inspiration from the Musikverein - famed for its beautiful timber interior - required a very complex process of material specification. The sensitive aesthetic and practical considerations made this a particularly tall architectural order.


The Musikverein, Vienna: Inspiration for the Sage One concert hall in the Gateshead Sage.

In case you hadn’t already guessed, the timber provided to create this complex, yet beautiful Sage One concert hall was provided by… none other than us!

Duffield Timber’s solution

American ash, scientifically known as Fraxinus americana, is an ash tree native to North America. We chose this subspecies for the Sage One because of its aesthetic as well as technical properties.

A highly versatile, creamy white timber, American ash lends itself extremely well to interior use. With favourable hardness, strength, steam-bending and machining properties, this particular type of wood is a perfect fit for the wood-panelled Sage One concert hall.

To meet the specifications of the architects and joinery company Abraham & Carlisle, we machined and profiled American ash to exact thicknesses, as well as the machined specific profiles and shapes to optimise the acoustics in the concert hall. The aim was to secure low frequency diffusion throughout the venue, ensuring no sound is lost - Sage One was to be an acoustically perfect space for a symphony orchestra. As such, the walls incorporate a convex curvature; along with the timber battens, this helps to diffuse high and middle frequency sound. The curvature on the many other surfaces assists the diffusion through the hall.

The Sage One was created with versatility firmly in mind. The ceiling panels were designed to be fully adjustable, able to move in height to suit any conference, concert or event.

Convex curvature on the tiling and walls enables low frequency diffusion.

The result

An architecturally beautiful, acoustically-optimised and highly-adaptable feat in wood construction.

In recognition of ‘excellence in architecture and product design’, the Sage One won a Wood Award for ‘Winner of the Commercial & Public Access Category’. We were awarded a formal certificate for our key role in the project; the Sage Gateshead has also been shortlisted for, and won, a huge range of industry accolades - a selected of which we’ve listed below.

→ Wood Awards 2005 – Winner of the Commercial & Public Access Category

→ Civic Trust Award 2006

→ The Journal North East Landmark of the Year Award

→ RIBA Award Winner 2005

→ British Construction Industry Award - Local Authority Award

→ British Construction Industry Award - Conservation

→ Prime Minister's Better Public Building Award - Finalist 2005

→ RIBA Inclusive Design Award 2005

→ Construction Excellence North East Award for the Mobile Acoustic Ceiling Panels

→ ICE North Robert Stephenson Award for Concept and Design

→ LABC Built in Quality Awards - Best Access/Disability Regulations Innovation

→ LABC Built in Quality - Best Public/Community Project

→ Retail & Leisure Property Awards - Best Public Sector funded Leisure Development

→ Roses Design Award for Best Public Building

→ The Journal Landmark Public Sector Award