‘Guggenheim of the North’ has become a Wem Koolhaus Monstrosity
Manchester Evening News
Lets have a proper architectural competition of £70 million of Treasury funding at stake.
This is the first glimpse of overhauled plans for Manchester’s new £111m arts centre, dubbed the ‘Guggenheim of the North’.
The Factory is set to be built on the old Granada Studios site in the city centre with the aim of becoming one of the world’s top performance venues.
But, as the M.E.N. reported last July, architects were forced to go back to the drawing board – at a cost of £1.6m to the city council – after its original theatre, orchestra pit and building facade designs were found to be unsuitable.
Now Rotterdam-based architecture firm OMA has submitted a revised planning application, 16 months after the original proposals were approved.
The most striking change is to the exterior, with the original, complex ‘shrink wrap’ design and lift shafts axed in favour of a more ‘back-to-basics’ shape.
Glass facades on the north and south of the buildings have also been replaced with concrete panels.
The architect says that’s because the glass was ‘contrary to the majority of the internal use’ and would have needed to have been blacked out ‘90 per cent of the time’ during performances.
Inside alterations include a reduction in the theatre’s seating capacity, from 1,600 to 1,520.
The size of the orchestra pit is also set to be increased to accommodate 80 musicians, up from 60.
In documents submitted with the application OMA said the reduction in seating capacity aims to provide ‘a more intimate relationship between audience and performers and a more appropriately scaled, improved theatre house’.
Despite the alterations OMA insist the original ‘concept’ of the building has not changed.
When its striking design was first unveiled in 2016 The Factory was dubbed the city’s answer to the New York’s Guggenheim museum.
It’s intended as the city’s flagship culture venue and will become the permanent home to the Manchester International Festival.
Originally earmarked to open next summer, it’s now scheduled for a September 2020 launch.
Speaking in July, when it emerged the plans would have to be redrawn, council leader Sir Richard Leese said: “This is a landmark building for the city for the coming century, and in terms of overall budget it’s an additional investment to ensure we get the quality of appearance and flexibility of use to meet the high expectations set by the city for this world leading project.”
The bulk of the money – £78m – for the project is being funded by the Treasury with the remainder is due to be provided through charitable donations and the Arts Council.