Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts

The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts is a cultural and Arts Centre in Newcastle, England. In 1994, Gateshead City Council opened an architecture competition with the aim of transforming the Baltic Flour Mill building on the edge of the River Tyne into a centre for Contemporary Art. The competition was won by a proposal from Ellis Williams Architects, a Manchester-based architectural office.

Image Credit: Flickr: Christopher Durstanburgh

The current structure, which is 40 meters high and 50 meters wide, has a total of 148 square-based silos. With the new proposal brought by Ewa, these silos were removed from the structure and enough space was opened inside the building for the Art Center. Thus, the net floor area of the building increased to 8,537 square meters. The old factory structure was able to turn into a very suitable place for displaying modern works of art with ceiling heights up to 7.4 meters and a reinforced concrete carrier system capable of carrying tons of loads.

Image Credit: Edmund Sumner – Architecture Now

“Our main goal is to allow modern art to take place in whatever form it takes. Often works of art capture the nature of the space in which they are located. The main purpose of the existing building is to collect flour, store it and distribute it with silos that we do not see what is being done in it. Although the building gains a new function, these tasks will not actually change. Works of art will come, be produced and go from one place to another. But all this work will be less ‘secret’, even if it is located between the same walls. A new living space will be created inside the building thanks to spaces such as gallery floors, cafes and libraries placed between these walls.”Dominic Williams, one of the architects of the project, describes the Baltic Center for Modern Art with these words.

Image Credit: Flickr: markb30

The Art Center is located in one of the most central points of the city. Situated on the banks of the River Tyne, the structure is directly opposite Gateshead Millennium Bridge. At a point of such urban importance, it was not easy to get the necessary permits to turn an old factory building into an art center. But the new project retains much of the visual features of the old structure.

Image Credit: Edmund Sumner – Architecture Now

Another reason that motivates Architects is that the new museum has an environmental identity. The team, which cares about insulation, heat preservation and ventilation systems, has effectively used the heat storage property of the structure. At the same time, the structure receives daylight in a controlled manner, especially in summer. The gallery areas inside the structure are illuminated by glass openings placed on its short facade, which is 25 meters wide.

Architect: Ellis Williams Architects
Location: Gateshead – Newcastle, UK
Production year: 1999-2002

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