Manchester is achieving a social and economic renaissance with a multi-faceted strategy that includes science and innovation in partnership with its universities and culture through new arts facilities, building on the successful extension of the Manchester Art Gallery designed by Hopkins Architects and completed over a decade ago and HOME, the new £25m arts centre which opened this week to rehouse the Cornerhouse cinema and gallery and the Library theatre company.
The HOME Art and Culture House, designed by Dutch architects Mecanoo and incorporating four listed viaduct arches into the design, is the first stage in the transformation of the southwest part of inner Manchester into a vibrant cultural district.
Mecanoo, who are also architects for the The University of Manchester’s new £200 million Engineering Campus, sought to accommodate the arts functions on the constrained site with spacious foyer and circulation areas housed in a distinctive building with a triangular shape with curved corners and a dynamic facade of vertical slats.
The spacious foyers, finished in natural materials – concrete, timber and glass, overlook the adjacent square while a terrace connects the square with the theatre café. The entrance to 550-seat theatre is on the ground floor with a small theatre and restaurant on the first floor and cinemas and a roof terrace on the second floor. The timber staircase is a unifying feature that rises through the building. HOME is also energy efficient and has achieved a BREEAM Very Good rating
The first theatre production is The Funfair, Simon Stephens’s new version of the 1932 Hungarian play Kasimir and Karoline, which is set in modern-day Manchester. Stephens has compared the current “optimism and energy” in Manchester’s theatres with the city’s music scene in the 1980s: “It comes at a time when Manchester’s theatre is increasingly confident….I think it’s remarkable, and I think Home will crystallise that. There’s a whole generation of writers, actors and directors who can’t afford to live in London any more because it’s becoming prohibitively expensive. They’re moving to Birmingham, they’re moving to Cardiff, and in their handfuls they’re moving to Manchester. I think this has the potential to be the most exciting theatre city in the UK.” (Simon Stephens)
The next stage in this cultural regeneration is a new £78 million theatre and arts venue is to be built on the former site of Granada’s TV studios, to be called The Factory, in homage to the city’s legendary Factory Records label, and which will house a “large scale, ultra-flexible arts space” that would hold 2,200 people when seated, or 5,000 standing and, when it opens in 2019, will provide a permanent home for the Manchester International Festival (MIF).
The Factory will be “a new kind of large-scale venue comparable in scale to London’s Coliseum connected to one side of a Tate Modern Turbine Hall-type structure. As well as providing a new home base for MIF, it will commission and welcome innovative works from companies and artists around the world. Like MIF, it will attract groundbreaking and pioneering works which might not otherwise come to the north of England, or even the UK, and the concept is in many ways born from MIF.” (MIF chairman and Chancellor of Manchester University Tom Bloxham)
Earlier this year, Mecanoo announced that in order to support the growing number of projects in the region, the practice was moving into larger office on Princess Street, a sign of its commitment to the Great Manchester area and the UK as a whole.
“International experience and local presence, fresh thinking and new ideas are embraced here in Manchester and the North West. We have found being based locally is essential to allow for a strong client engagement and collaboration. The North West has become a second home to Mecanoo.” (Francesco Veenstra)
Photographs from Mecanoo.