Manchester’s Landmark New Cultural Venue opening, Aviva Studios by OMA, English architectural design news
Aviva Studios in Manchester to Open on 18 October 2023
18 October 2023
Manchester’s New Cultural Landmark Aviva Studios Officially Opens
Location: St. John’s Quarter, Manchester, northwest England, UK
The OMA-designed venue, the new permanent home of Factory International, is the UK’s largest investment in a national cultural project since the opening of Tate Modern in 2000:
Previously on e-architect:
14 September 2023
Design: Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA)
Location: St. John’s Quarter, Manchester, England, United Kingdom
Aviva Studios to Open on 18th October 2023
Manchester’s landmark new cultural venue, Aviva Studios – the new permanent home of Factory International – will open on 18 October 2023 with the official opening production Free Your Mind, created especially for Aviva Studios and taking place throughout the building’s ultra-flexible spaces.
Designed by the world-leading Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), with OMA Partner, Ellen van Loon as lead architect, Aviva Studios is the practice’s first major public project in the UK. Spanning 13,350 square metres, the building offers vast, adaptable spaces that can be constantly reconfigured, enabling artists to develop works of invention and ambition, of a kind not seen anywhere else in the world.
The development of Aviva Studios is the largest investment in a national cultural project since the opening of Tate Modern in 2000. It is led by Manchester City Council, with backing of £99.05m from HM Government and £7m National Lottery funding from Arts Council England.
Programmed and operated by Factory International – the team who also deliver the world-renowned Manchester International Festival – Aviva Studios will host a year-round programme by leading artists from across the world, creating a global destination for arts, music and culture in the heart of Manchester.
Audiences will enjoy year-round the broadest range of art forms from major exhibitions and concerts to intimate performances and immersive experiences. Outside, its public areas will come alive with pop-up performances, events and markets, creating a thriving riverside destination for audiences to enjoy.
Premiering on 18 October 2023, Free Your Mind is a large-scale and immersive retelling of the classic sci-fi film The Matrix. This dramatic reworking of the 1999 sci-fi film through dance, music and visual effects will bring together the visceral movement of choreographer Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy MBE with a powerful score by the celebrated composer Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante MBE (co-founders and artistic directors of the Olivier award-winning Boy Blue), large-scale stage sculptures by world-leading designer Es Devlin and the work of the acclaimed writer Sabrina Mahfouz – directed by Danny Boyle. Free Your Mind will recreate some of the film’s most iconic scenes through hip-hop choreography combined with immersive set design and visual effects, provoking visions of an alternate future.
Ahead of the official opening, audiences were given the opportunity to preview the new building with a major exhibition by Yayoi Kusama that took place as part of Manchester International Festival 2023. Created especially for Aviva Studios, You, Me and the Balloons was the first work to be presented inside Factory International’s landmark new venue.
The new building is located in the new St John’s neighbourhood which is being developed on the site of the former Granada Studios next to the River Irwell and will make a major contribution to the ongoing regeneration of this part of the city centre.
This new cultural landmark strengthens the city’s status as a national and international centre for culture, creativity and innovation, as well as a major visitor destination. Its economic impact will be considerable, creating or supporting up to 1,500 direct and indirect jobs and adding £1.1 billion to the city’s economy over a decade. It will play an important role in the lives of Greater Manchester residents, bringing jobs, skills, training and creative opportunities for local people and artists. Through the Factory Academy, Factory International is training the creative workforce of the future, providing opportunities for careers in Manchester’s ever-growing creative industries, while talent development programmes such as the Factory Fellowships see emerging artists placed alongside international creatives.
Architectural Statement from Ellen van Loon (OMA Partner and Lead Architect)
Aviva Studios, which will be programmed and operated by Factory International, embraces Manchester’s industrial as well as its creative past. The building’s concrete and corrugated metal facades stand against the refurbished brick warehouses and new build flats, offices, and television studios that make up the new St. John’s neighbourhood.
The building’s main event space, the Warehouse, is conceived as one large industrial space, left bare to be adapted by its users as they see fit. The arches that once supported the historic viaduct known as the Pineapple Line are preserved as part of the foyer. A technical grid on the Warehouse ceiling permits any type of use, from concert to exhibition. A movable full-height acoustic wall, 21 metres tall, can divide the space so that two events can coexist without disturbance. The space can be opened up, but also split and a performance space made larger or smaller.
The Warehouse is complemented by the Hall, a 1,600-seat auditorium with a flexible stage, adaptable to ballet, theatre, music, and cross-art performances. The Warehouse and the Hall can work in tandem: the proscenium opens fully into the warehouse and allows the stage to run deeper into the building.
It is a space that can create multiple opportunities and endless configurations and environments. It will be a new type of performance space, a unique crossover between a fixed theatre and flexible warehouse.
At street level, the design has allowed the creation of a significant area of public space along the River Irwell.
Aviva Studios, Manchester – Building Information
This landmark new cultural space currently being built in the heart of Manchester, UK, is one of the largest and most ambitious developments of its kind in Europe. Aviva Studios is designed by world-leading practice Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), with OMA Partner, Ellen van Loon as lead architect, and is their first major public building in the UK.
The development is being led by Manchester City Council, with backing from HM Government and Arts Council England. Factory International will operate the cultural centre, as well as delivering the citywide Festival every other year.
Located in the centre of Manchester along the River Irwell, Aviva Studios forms part of the city’s major St. John’s Quarter redevelopment. The site is part of the Castlefield Conservation Area, which includes the Science and Industry Museum located on a globally significant industrial heritage site including the world’s oldest surviving passenger railway and world’s first railway goods warehouse.
The redevelopment scheme will revive the entire site of the former Granada TV Studios, which is being transformed into a burgeoning city centre hub for culture, creativity and digital innovation.
• November 2015: OMA selected as winner of the international competition to design The Factory. The project marks OMA’s first major public building in the UK.
• 8 July 2017: Ground-breaking Ceremony with performance by Laurie Anderson for Manchester International Festival.
• July 2021: Deborah Warner’s installation Arcadia takes place within the construction site of the building as part of Manchester International Festival.
• June 2023: The venue welcomes its first visitors.
• October 2023: Official opening production for Aviva Studios, the home of Factory
Site: 1.80 hectares
Gross Internal Area (GIA): 13,350sqm
Warehouse Capacity: Up to 5,000 people standing (2,565 sqm)
Hall Capacity: Multiple configurations with maximum of 1,600 seated or 2,000 standing, 22m wide proscenium and orchestra pit for 80 musicians
Throughout the project’s interior and exterior, the focus of material selection was to reflect the industrial nature and heritage of the site. The combination of exposed steel connections, raw concrete, and façade systems typically used on industrial buildings and factories are brought together to create a new interpretation of the materials, while retaining the industrial aesthetics.
The design of the building is based around large, open, flexible spaces that will constantly change and reconfigure to meet the needs of the work created and presented in the building. Key elements include:
At 30m wide, 65.65m long, 21m (clear) high, the Warehouse is the ultimate flexible performance space, with a theatre grid spanning the entirety of the area. At 21 metres tall, it is higher than four double decker buses stacked on top of each other and is the length of a Boeing 747 aeroplane. Two ‘Multiwalls’ enable the Warehouse to be configured as a single space or divided into two warehouse spaces. The Multiwalls move as individual panels that are manually moved around a track.
170 strong points in the Warehouse can each hold 1 tonne, to allow sets, production rigs or performers to be suspended from the walls, and the standing-height grid has a working load of 200T, evenly distributed across it.
Truck Lift: On the West side of the North Warehouse is a unique, purpose-built vehicle lift that allows for two 50-ton articulated lorries, with trailers up to 40 feet long, to access the Warehouse.
Two foyers with bars, fixed seating at the balcony for 640, flexible stalls for multiple seated (max 1,380) and standing configurations and flexible orchestra pit with a capacity of 80 positions. At 19 metres wide and 5.5 metres deep, this stage can also be expanded to 8 metres deep and 21 metres wide, or reduced to 2.5 metres deep. The Proscenium steel shutters give the ability for simultaneous events to take place in the Hall and Warehouse. They create a sound separation between the two spaces.
The Warehouse and Hall can be connected into one flat floor space, with the ability to act as a 35 by 32 metre stage for the Hall, with an 11 metre high proscenium arch opening.
Back of House Towers
Support including offices, a green room and dressing rooms (9 in total which can accommodate 95 people).
This is a primary foyer facing Water Street serving both the Hall and the Warehouse. It is framed by eight Grade II listed railway arches at the south. There are three entrances into the space, City Square to the North, River Square to the West, and a direct link into the Science and Industry Museum (SIM) lower courtyard through a Grade II listed arch. When SIM is open people can seamlessly move between the spaces.
A 33-metre-long bar is split in two by the ‘mega pig’ which is a key part of the building’s structural engineering, holding up the proscenium arch above.
Additional multi-use foyers are on Level 2 and Level 3 of the building.
New outdoor spaces will provide visitors with a setting to enjoy the building and surrounding environment, including the River Irwell – an almost unique experience in central Manchester. A number of trees will also be planted.
Factory International is on a committed path towards zero-carbon activity. Using operational data from 2024 as the benchmark, Factory International’s ambition is to become a zero-carbon emissions organisation by 2038 in line with Manchester’s targets.
The capital project has invested significantly in the building fabric to create acoustically insulated spaces enveloped in a very high thermal mass which reduces the amount of energy required for heating, and high-performance glazing also reduces the amount of energy required for cooling. The fresh-air ventilation system closely monitors the air quality in the building to match the flow rate with the occupancy to minimise energy consumption and maintain comfort for each size of event. Waste heat is also recovered.
The building is targeted to achieve a BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) assessment rating “Very Good”. A BREEAM rating is generated by measuring and grading projects against 103 different sustainability criteria covering the management of the project, materials and delivery.
Construction and Delivery
The development of the capital project is being led by Manchester City Council in partnership with Factory International.
Technical Architects: Ryder Architecture Construction Partners: Laing O’Rourke Structure and Civil Engineer: Buro Happold Services Engineer: Buro Happold, BDP Acoustic Engineer: Level Acoustics
Fire Engineer: WSP
Stage Engineering: Charcoal Blue
Vertical Transportation: Pearson Consult Landscape Design: Planit.IE
IT: Turner and Townsend
Transport Planning: Vectos
OMA Team: Ellen van Loon, Rem Koolhaas, Gary Owen, Carol Patterson, Jonathan Telkamp, Richard Hollington, Tanner Merkeley, Jacopo Bellina, Paloma Bule, Anita Ernődi, Marc-Achille Filhol, Alain Fouraux, Benedetta Gatti, Aris Gkitzias, Michael Hadjistyllis, Jason Houssein, Lisa Huang, Aleksandar Joksimovic, Hans Larsson, Thijs van der Lely, Emma Lubbers, Dirk van der Meij, Felix Morczinek, Tom Paling, Maria Aller Rey, Mario Rodriguez, Helena Rong, Won Ryu, Saskia Simon, Lukasz Skalec, Wael Sleiman, Iason Stathatos, Koen Stockbroekx, Shinji Takagi, Nicola Vitale, Federike Werner, Tom Xia, Yushang Zhang.
Ben Kelly and Brinkworth have collaborated to design the interiors for the public spaces within Aviva Studios, building upon a long-standing creative relationship. Ben Kelly and Kevin Brennan, CEO of Brinkworth have previously designed many public and entertainment spaces together, including Béton House, Park Hill Student Accommodation Sheffield, (Dis)order Nightclub L.A, BIMM Fulham, and The Basement at The Science Museum, London. Ben Kelly is also known for his work in connection with Factory Records, including Fac 51 The Haçienda, Dry 201 and The Factory HQ in Manchester.
Ben Kelly and Brinkworth have created truly adaptable, multifunctional welcome areas with a palette that references 1980’s industrial Manchester. A key design feature is a two-storey structure, which stands in the middle of the ground floor foyer, designed to be used for a range of usages from a welcome desk to a DJ booth. The structure is wrapped in perforated bright orange and blue metal which references the Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) album cover designed by Ben Kelly and Peter Saville. In addition, the retail solution is fully modular and can be reconfigured and adapted, or removed entirely if needed, making the space flexible for the many diverse events it will host.
OMA is an international practice operating within the traditional boundaries of architecture and urbanism. OMA is led by eight partners – Rem Koolhaas, Reinier de Graaf, Ellen van Loon, Shohei Shigematsu, Iyad Alsaka, Chris van Duijn, Jason Long, and Managing Partner-Architect David Gianotten – and maintains offices in Rotterdam, New York, Hong Kong, Doha, and Australia.
OMA-designed buildings currently under construction are the renovation of Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe) in Berlin, Hangzhou Prism, Green Point Landing in New York and Mangalem 21 in Tirana. OMA’s completed projects include Taipei Performing Arts Centre (2022), Norra Tornen in Stockholm (2020), Axel Springer Campus in Berlin (2020), MEETT Toulouse Exhibition and Convention Centre (2020), Galleria in Gwanggyo (2020), nhow RAI Hotel in Amsterdam (2020), a new building for Brighton College (2020), Potato Head Studios (2020), Earlier buildings include Fondazione Prada (2018), Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow (2015), De Rotterdam (2013), CCTV Headquarters in Beijing (2012), Casa da Música in Porto (2005), Seattle Central Library (2004), and The Netherlands Embassy in Berlin (2003).
Ellen van Loon
Ellen van Loon is Partner at OMA. She joined the office in 1998 and has led award-winning building projects that combine sophisticated design with precise execution.
Her recently completed projects include Jacquemus’ shops in London and Paris (2022), Tiffany & Co’s temporary showroom in Doha (2023) and temporary store on Avenue Montaigne (2022) in Paris, the BVLGARI Fine Jewelry Show in Milan (2021), Brighton College in Brighton (2020), BLOX / DAC in Copenhagen (2018), Rijnstraat 8 in The Hague (2017), and Lab City CentraleSupélec (2017). Other projects in her portfolio include Fondation Galeries Lafayette (2018) in Paris; Qatar National Library (2017); Amsterdam’s G-Star Raw Headquarters (2014); De Rotterdam, the largest building in the Netherlands (2013); CCTV Headquarters in Beijing (2012); New Court Rothschild Bank in London (2011); Maggie’s Centre in Glasgow (2011); Casa da Musica in Porto (2005) – winner of the 2007 RIBA Award; and the Dutch Embassy in Berlin (2003) – winner of the European Union Mies van der Rohe Award in 2005.
Ellen van Loon is currently working on the transformation of Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe) Berlin – Europe’s biggest department store; Lamarr, a new store for the KaDeWe Group in Vienna; and the Palais de Justice de Lille.
About Factory International
Factory International commissions, produces and presents a year-round programme of original creative work and special events at Aviva Studios, its landmark new home in Manchester, online, and internationally through its network of co-commissioners and partners. It also stages the city-wide Manchester International Festival every other year.
A space for invention and discovery, the design of Factory International’s new home, Aviva Studios, is led by Ellen van Loon of the world-leading practice Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA). Built with flexibility in mind, the building is based around large, open, adaptable spaces that can be constantly reconfigured, enabling artists to develop and create large-scale work of invention and ambition, of a kind not seen anywhere else in the world. Audiences can enjoy the broadest range of art forms from major exhibitions and concerts to intimate performances and immersive experiences, while the venue’s outside areas come alive with pop-up performances, events and markets, creating a thriving new riverside destination for all.
This new cultural landmark strengthens the city’s status as a national and international centre for culture, creativity and innovation, as well as a major visitor destination. Its economic impact will be considerable, creating or supporting up to 1,500 direct and indirect jobs and adding £1.1 billion to the city’s economy over a decade. The venue’s development is led by Manchester City Council, with backing of £99.05m from HM Government and £7m National Lottery funding from Arts Council England.
Factory International builds on the legacy of Manchester International Festival, one of the world’s leading arts festivals, and the first to be entirely focused on the commissioning and producing of ambitious new work. Staged every two years in Manchester since 2007, world-renowned artists from different art forms and backgrounds create dynamic, innovative and forward-thinking new work reflecting the spectrum of performing arts, visual arts and popular culture, in spaces and venues across Greater Manchester. Working closely with cultural organisations globally, whose financial and creative input helps to make many of these projects possible, much of the work also goes on to travel the world, reaching an audience of 1.7 million people in more than 30 countries to date.
Factory International plays an important role in the lives of Greater Manchester residents, bringing jobs, skills, training and creative opportunities for local people and artists. Its pioneering creative engagement and artist development programmes creates year-round opportunities for local people to get involved, from participating in flagship commissions, co-designing programmes of activity, to shaping the organisation through involvement in its public forums. Through the Factory Academy, Factory International is training the creative workforce of the future, providing opportunities for careers in Manchester’s ever-growing creative industries, while talent development programmes such as the Factory Fellowships see emerging artists placed alongside international creatives.
Factory International is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation.
About Arts Council England
Arts Council England is the national development agency for creativity and culture. We have set out our strategic vision in Let’s Create that by 2030 we want England to be a country in which the creativity of each of us is valued and given the chance to flourish and where everyone of us has access to a remarkable range of high-quality cultural experiences. From 2023 to 2026 we will invest over £467 million of public money from Government and an estimated £250 million from The National Lottery each year to help support the sector and to deliver this vision.
Aviva Studios in Manchester images / information received 130923 from OMA
Location: Manchester, Northwest England, UK
Contemporary Manchester Architecture
Manchester Architectural Designs – chronological list
Recent Manchester Building Designs
The Factory Manchester Building
image courtesy of architects
The Factory Manchester Building
Great Northern Warehouse, Square and Deansgate Terraces
Architects: SimpsonHaugh ; Masterplan: aLL Design
image : SimpsonHaugh
Great Northern Warehouse and Square
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