Another day, another breathtaking creation from Norman Foster

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The Independent Online

As if engendering a new sense of French pride with the Millau viaduct were not work enough for one week, Lord Foster of Thames Bank will contribute to one of Britain's most improbable stories of urban renaissance today when he hands over the huge, gleaming seashell which may turn Gateshead into one of Europe's great music venues.

As if engendering a new sense of French pride with the Millau viaduct were not work enough for one week, Lord Foster of Thames Bank will contribute to one of Britain's most improbable stories of urban renaissance today when he hands over the huge, gleaming seashell which may turn Gateshead into one of Europe's great music venues.

At 5pm this evening, the public will be invited to step inside Sage Gateshead, a £70m music centre built with the largest lottery grant awarded outside of London (£47m) which wraps a vast, glass and steel roof around a concert space inspired by the peerless acoustics of Vienna's Musikverein.

The building, Lord Foster's first for the performing arts, furthers the town's quest for cultural regeneration which began with Sir Antony Gormley's Angel of the North and continued with the Baltic art gallery and the Stirling Prize-winning Gateshead Millennium Bridge which links Newcastle upon Tyne with its neighbour's new "South Bank".

The town has gone to great lengths to make its people feel that the venue is not only a place to watch the resident Northern Sinfonia but is also a "place to be". A preview revealed yesterday how a 100m ribbon of coloured glass designed by Kate Maestri will run the length of the building's vast public concourse and spill out on to two adjacent squares.

It is a device to "draw people who have not been to concerts before into the concourse from the squares," said Mick Henry, Gateshead's council leader. For those who need less persuading to step inside, Lord Foster and his chief architect, Spencer de Grey, have toured Europe in search of the best acoustics. The largest of three concert halls will seat 1,700 in the classic shoebox design made famous in the Musikverein.

Mr Henry said the "real test" was Sage's capacity to trigger wider regeneration for Gateshead. There are 800 new jobs, chic flats next door and an adjacent business park that is expected to employ 7,000 people within 10 years.

"It's a long job but if we bring in high-quality jobs, hundreds more are created on the back of them," said Mr Henry. "We are also employing many strategies to get people interested in the arts and creativity. Their life quality will be improved by that."

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