The Baltic Mills was a disused flour silo sited on the south bank of the river Tyne, Gateshead. Its historic structure was earmarked by the Authority for regeneration and after winning a design competition; Dominic Williams was appointed by Gateshead MBC and worked closely with the gallery organisation to develop his vertical stack concept and lead a carefully chosen technical team in the successful conversion. Opened in 2002, receiving many awards and over a million visitors in its first year it has continued to provide a rich programme of contemporary art, learning and social engagement.
The design process, involved the Architect in many detailed briefings with stakeholders, artists and community groups. The flexible nature of the concept allowed the programme to evolve through this process maintaining the integrity of the original proposition. The design explored the relationship between creative and social forms positioning the administration and education spaces at the heart of the building.
The gallery spaces were designed specifically to support a varied programme of contemporary art media, and these are also complimented by a film production lab, resident artist studios and education workspaces. There are a series of acoustically treated spaces for cinema and performance works which are integral to Baltic’s display and education programme and all its spaces can be easily reconfigured for exhibitions supported by a super large service lift.
The verticality of the existing building was utilised by inserting the large span gallery spaces between the north and south brick facades retaining the perimeter silo structure. These spaces are accessed via express glass lifts and a stair which rise within slender fins reflecting the 2.5m grid of the original structure. View points from orientation areas, allow visitors to engage with the surrounding cityscape between stacked gallery spaces. A rooftop restaurant provides panoramic river and city views.