The Glass-House supported Gateshead Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) to help them build their confidence to work with their architects on the the design process for their newly acquired premises. 

Project date: May – August 2006

The Story

Gateshead CAB purchased a former pub, The Barley Mow, in the centre of Gateshead. They began the process of refurbishing and building a small extension to the newly acquired building, as their existing premises were inadequate. An ‘access audit’ drew attention to the inadequacies of their current building, which did not comply with the Disability Discrimination Act and which could not be adapted because of its Listed Building status.

As active clients, they hoped to inform the design process throughout and work closely with their architects to ensure they were able to continue delivering existing and improved services, and create an inclusive, spacious, safe and welcoming premises that would complement their work. They also planned to utilise the new facilities for additional income generation.

The group was keen to achieve an optimum layout and design to provide the best access to both the building and services for all staff, volunteers, clients and the general public.

After attending a Glass-House Buildings by Design course at Trafford Hall, the group was interested in exploring real life examples of design projects that would both inspire and inform their project. They were successful in applying for a two-day Study Tour with The Glass-House to examine pertinent building issues and inspiring design in South East London. The Study Tour looked as examples of front-of-house services layouts, building management, flow of people, reception desks, diagnostic interviewing, client self-services, and information resources. 

They visited two Citizens Advice Bureaus, that tackled similar issues to those they were facing. The Glass-House also injected some design inspiration into the tour, visiting the Laban Dance Centre, BedZed and Peckham Library. In addition to these practical aspects, the tour most importantly raised the design ambition of the project’s key clients.


The tour was successful in striking a balance between the practical and technical issues surrounding community buildings and inspirational design quality. With the added benefit of having an architect present to guide the tour and respond to technical questions, the group accumulated valuable knowledge of design quality, alternative construction materials and environmental building solutions.

The Gateshead CAB exists to provide an inclusive and effective delivery of quality information, advice and casework service, appropriate to the needs of the people of Gateshead. The new building will allow the CAB to improve accessibility, increasing the range of local people and organisations that are able to access the building and services, particularly those with disabilities and from minority ethnic groups.

A valuable part of the study tour was opening up a platform for exchange for the group to learn how other bureaus were developing, managing, operating and adapting their buildings to meet service requirements. They left the tour with ideas and resources to achieve an optimum layout and design to provide the best access to both the building and services for all staff, volunteers, clients and general public.

During the design process, the group was involved in deciding some of the building’s key architectural features. They spoke of using a modular design system in which they wanted to use shipping containers to form the core of the building. The group was also keen to employ natural light and ventilation through a central atrium, to improve the building’s environmental impact, as well as having aspirations to build a roof garden, green room and a restaurant. 

The Gateshead Citizen’s Advice Bureau was completed in 2009. The group secured £800,000 of funding towards the build costs, which totalled approximately £1.2 million without labour. 

Glass-House Enabler

Graeme Sutherland


The Glass-House returned to Gateshead for a hosted study tour in 2013. Read a blog about the day here.

The Gateshead Citizens Advice Bureau is now up and running, operating as Citizens Advice Gateshead. You can visit their site here.