Days out: Gateshead's Baltic Centre

No fog on the Tyne, but plenty of art

Gateshead's £46m Baltic art gallery is housed in a gigantic 1950s grain store that towers above the Tyne. Beside it dances Wilkinson Eyre's award-winning "winking bridge" – the world's first tilting bridge – which opens like an eye to let ships pass beneath. Further down, the 1920s Tyne Bridge loops across the river in green splendour.

Architects Ellis Williams weaved their magic on the hulking bulk of the flour mill to turn it into what is more accurately known as the Baltic art factory, its functional 1950s lines enhanced by a clever use of steel, aluminium, glass and pine. There are galleries on five levels, each one the size of a warehouse, a rooftop restaurant (book in advance), cafés, bars and viewing galleries over Tyneside at the top.

"We decided not to stuff it with two-dimensional paintings at the start," said Baltic director Sune Nordgren. "We want to show the symbiosis of art and architecture. In the next three exhibitions there will be lots of paintings by well-known contemporary artists. But expect the unexpected."

One thing the Baltic has vowed not to do is to show any exhibition that has already appeared in London, and what you'll see there is at the cutting edge of contemporary art. There's a display of bridges by Chris Burden that includes a one-twentieth scale model of the Tyne Bridge, constructed in pretend Meccano. You can even look through the struts of the miniature, through the Baltic's west window, and down the Tyne to see the full-size version.

The third floor is devoted to gongs, 18 of them in pairs, which visitors are urged to strike. Each has a name, for example Silence, Heart, Sperm, Peace and Milk; and each produces a slightly different tone. Jaume Plensa's Installation looks like a golden basilica, and is truly a cathedral of sound.

Other works, such as Alec Finlay's Football Haiku and Julian Opie's human body outlines, made less of an impression on me.

If you arrived from the south you will have seen it already: Antony Gormley's Angel of the North, the huge, welcoming, sexy statue standing on a hill above the A1. Geordies have taken the angel to their bosom as a symbol of the transformed North East. There's grass at his feet, making it an ideal spot for a picnic.

You can see Norman Foster's £70m Music Centre nearing completion, a huge arching structure that will house the Northern Sinfonia and become the region's largest music venue. And don't miss Saltwell Park, one of England's finest public spaces in the Victorian style: it has just received a grant of £9.6m to return it to its former glory. It was only when I asked about Gateshead's nightlife that the upbeat story lost a bit of its zing. "Well," said my local contact, lowering her voice, "you have to pop over to Newcastle for that."

So, across the Tyne to the Crown Posada pub, where Bob, a shipbuilder, reminisced about the old days. "Me? Oh yes, I'll go to the Baltic – one day."

Then to the Bridge Hotel for the folk night. Locals sang traditional Geordie songs as high-speed trains whizzed past on their way to Scotland. Then back across the High Level Bridge to the other side. The lights twinkled in the clear night air: there's very little fog on the Tyne these days. But then again, there aren't many ships either.

Futher Information

Baltic, The Centre for Contemporary Art, South Shore Road, Gateshead (0191-478 1810; Open Mon, Tues, Wed, Fri Sat 10am-7pm, Thurs 10am-10pm, Sun 10am-5pm. Admission free. Robert Nurden stayed at Elephant on the Tyne, Riverside Park, Green Lane, Gateshead (0191-495 0282; Single rooms cost £45 per room per night.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Highs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam