Global arts & culture destination opens in Manchester

23 October 2023
Credit: Marco Cappelletti
  • Marco Cappelletti
  • Marco Cappelletti
  • Marco Cappelletti
  • Marco Cappelletti
  • Marco Cappelletti


United Kingdom

OMA create ultra-flexible performance space

Aviva Studios, the home of Factory International, has opened in Manchester, marking the completion of the first major public building in the UK by Tenderstream member OMA. A design contest - published by Tenderstream in 2015 - called for a venue to house a large scale, ultra-flexible arts space, as the UK's largest investment in a national cultural project since the opening of Tate Modern in 2000. The design team, led by OMA partner Ellen Van Loon, created a unique crossover between a theatre and a warehouse space, capable of hosting dance, theatre, music, visual and performance arts, and digital commissions. 

The building’s design is centred around large, open, flexible spaces that will continuously adapt and reconfigure to meet the requirements of work created and presented throughout. Key elements include the Warehouse, featuring two moveable ‘Multiwalls’ which enable an almost limitless number of configurations within the expansive space. Plugged into the Warehouse is ‘the Hall’, a 1600 seat auditorium with a flexible stage. The Hall and the Warehouse can work in tandem, allowing the stage to extend deep into the warehouse.

The site is representative of the industrial and cultural history of Manchester, referenced in the building’s design through its use of corrugated metal and rough concrete. The building is lifted over Water Street and incorporates 19th century railway arches. Typically, venues of this size are relegated to the outskirts due to noise concerns. However, by enclosing the structure with dual layers of concrete and employing advanced acoustic techniques, the highest sound insulation was achieved, allowing the building to be part of the city centre.

Ellen van Loon envisions this structure as a versatile stage for cultural expression, stating: "I've worked on numerous theatres and performance spaces, but none compare to this one in terms of what it offers to performers. This venue serves as a platform, unlocking the full potential of the performing arts. All too often, abandoned post-industrial buildings and neighbourhoods are erased from the map, and with them the creative scenes that once thrived within them. This building reinstates what was lost."

As the organisation behind the biannual Manchester International Festival, Factory International, will commission, produce and present a year-round programme. Premiering this October is Free Your Mind, a dramatic retelling of the classic sci-fi film The Matrix, created especially for the opening. 

Lucy Nordberg
Tenderstream Head of Research

This tender was first published by Tenderstream on 14.08.2015 here

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