Manchester's Factory arts building gets go-ahead

Rem Koolhaas-designed £110m centre seen by city council as ‘genuine cultural counterbalance to London’

Manchester’s proposed £110m arts centre, the Factory, has moved a step closer to being built after city councillors gave planning permission for the Rem Koolhaas-designed building.

The Factory will be erected on the site of the former Granada Studios and is seen by the city council as a game changer, one which the authority’s leader, Sir Richard Leese, has said would “make Manchester and the wider region a genuine cultural counterbalance to London”.

It is a central part of the northern powerhouse project, championed by the former chancellor George Osborne, who pledged £78m of government money in 2014, a sum which was confirmed this week following a Treasury review of the full business case.

The enormous and striking glass cube construction will be the first major public building in the UK by Dutch architect Koolhaas and his Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) practice.

Artist’s impression of the Factory auditorium
Artist’s impression of the Factory auditorium. Photograph: OMA/Factory Manchester

Ellen van Loon, the OMA partner in charge of the project, said: “From classical opera and ballet to large-scale performances and experimental productions, Factory in Manchester provides the perfect opportunity to create the ultimate versatile space in which art, theatre and music come together: a platform for a new cultural scene.”

After the vote, Leese said Factory was what Manchester and the wider arts world had been waiting for. “Factory isn’t going to just transform this unused corner of the city centre, it’s going to further transform the way we see the world, and the way the world sees Manchester.”

The council decision was welcomed by the culture minister, Matt Hancock, who said he wanted to “blast open access to the very best world-class art and culture we have to offer in this country”.

He said that was the reason for investing £78m, to “provide a further boost to the brilliant arts, culture and technology scene in the north. On top of that, it will also help local tourism, generate jobs and provide training opportunities for the next generation of British creatives”.

The Rem Koolhaas-designed CCTV tower in Beijing
The Rem Koolhaas-designed CCTV tower in Beijing. Photograph: Ullstein Bild/Getty Images

After the decision it was also confirmed that the building will be operated by Manchester international festival (MIF) with Mark Ball, currently artistic director of the London international festival of theatre (Lift), joining the MIF leadership team with a focus on the Factory programme.

Speaking of the appointment, MIF’s CEO and artistic director, John McGrath, said: “I have been a huge admirer of Mark’s vision as a producer and programmer since his early days at Fierce festival, and it has been inspiring to see his extraordinary achievements at Lift.

“I can’t imagine a better person to join MIF at this key moment in its history, and to ensure an exceptional, international programme of work at Factory.”

Ball called Factory “undoubtedly the most exciting and ambitious new cultural space in the country”. Construction work is expected to begin in the spring.


Mark Brown Arts correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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