The first thing you see when approaching the building is two giant chimneys, that I was to later learn were for distributing the fumes of glass-making high away from visitors below. The architect's website lists shipbuilding as an inspiration for parts of the design, and the chimneys do seem to have a nautical look about them:
The unusual thing about the entrance to the building was that you enter on the roof level and walk down into the building. Before I entered however I walked around the roof, which sloped up slightly towards the River Tees. The glass floors on the roof were fun, although not as scary as other glass floors I've walked on, due to the glass not being 100% transparent. There was a separate 'glass walk' section that I had heard so much about, but on a rainy day the effect wasn't as striking as in this image below:
Once inside the building, to the left and right were some small exhibition spaces, and straight in front was a large double height cafe and shop area, with an interesting conference pod at the end (my photo):
It wasn't until I picked up a building floor plan that I discovered I had missed out the majority of the building though. The north of the building was home to a large glass blowing studio, where a number of students were working on interesting glass sculptures and ornaments. At this time I was thinking of designing a glass-blowing factory and showroom on Murano for my design work, so I quickly became interested in everything that happened in this space. My photo below demonstrates the functionality of the space - with pipes and extractors positioned pretty much everywhere. I had no idea this space existed because all of the photos I had seen of the building were of the exterior:
A success of the building in my opinion was the huge glass façade facing south across the river. The architects wanted to create a transparent building, that engaged with the ship building yards and the river Tees, but in doing so they had to set back the façade several metres under the roof to prevent the summer sun baking the building (the picture below demonstrates this well). Solar shading was implemented also to stop glare from winter sun. Speaking to the people working there, however, they mentioned the building gets particularly cold in winter because of this wall of glass.
I enjoyed walking around the building - I was visiting primarily to look at the architecture, but I was sucked into the interesting exhibitions, and spent a while listening to a talk about glass blowing. The structure didn't leave much to the imagination - every pipe and vent was left showing, which will surely help my technical building study.