The centre occupies a curved glass and stainless steel building designed by Foster and Partners and Buro Happold (structural engineering) and has views of Newcastle and Gateshead Quaysides, the Tyne Bridge, and the Gateshead Millennium Bridge. Opened in 2004, it is a centre for musical education, performance and conferences.
MovvéO (formerly Lerch Bates) was responsible for the design of all the lift services within the building adopting specialist acoustic isolation measures to ensure extremely quiet equipment operation and remove any possibility of vibration or noise transfer into the various performance areas.
Planning for the centre began in the early 1990s, when the Northern Sinfonia orchestra, with encouragement from Northern Arts, began working on plans for a new concert hall. They were soon joined by regional folk music development agency Folkworks, which ensured that the needs of the region’s traditional music were taken into consideration; folk music is well-represented in the Sage’s programme of events, alongside classical, jazz, acoustic, indie, country, world, electronic and dance. Practice spaces for professional musicians, students and amateurs were an important part of the provision.
The planning and construction process cost over £70 million, which was raised primarily through National Lottery grants. The contractor was Laing O’Rourke. The centre has a range of patrons, notably Sage Group plc which contributed a large sum of money to have the building named after it. Sage plc has helped support the charitable activities of The Sage Gateshead since its conception.