High-profile Factory scheme designed by Dutch architect OMA

Laing O’Rourke is set to sign a deal in the next few weeks to build Manchester’s new arts venue The Factory designed by Rem Koolhaas’ practice OMA.

The builder has been working under a pre-contract services agreement since summer 2016 but the firm is now expected to sign on the dotted line for the main contract by the summer.

The futuristic theatre and arts venue, which will be built on the site of the former Granada TV studios, is named after the city’s famous record label, once home to bands like Happy Mondays and New Order, and will cost £112m to build.

It has been designed to bring together a theatre and a separate 5,000-capacity warehouse space for “immersive” events on part of the former TV studios site, which also incorporates a grade II listed railway viaduct that would need to be altered for the scheme.

Work on site had been expected to start last year ahead of a 2019 opening but this was delayed following a review last summer which said the orchestra pit had to be made bigger to fit more players. The review also found that the glazed and concrete facades on the building’s north and south frontages would interfere with the venue’s acoustics.

The theatre’s capacity has been cut from 1,700 to 1,500 and redesigned to create a more ‘intimate’ and ‘balanced’ auditorium. The changes cost £1.65m, taking the overall cost from £110m to £111.65m.

Former chancellor George Osborne announced in 2015 that government would be providing the bulk of the money – £78m – for the venue. The remainder is due to be provided through charitable donations and Arts Council funding.

OMA's Factory proposals

OMA’s Factory venue, viewed from Princes Bridge

Factory is being billed as a flagship cultural centre for the north and north-west which will commission original works in partnership with national and international organisations. It will make and present theatre, music, dance, technology, film and television, and will be large and flexible enough to stage more than one significant work of art at a time.

It is being built for the city council and is part of the wider St John’s regeneration scheme being carried out by Allied London. This includes a tech, media and creative industries hub called Enterprise City.

A spokesperson for the developer told Building the main contract for Factory would be awarded in the second quarter of this year with construction work due to finish in the final three months of 2020.

Koolhaas himself is leading the practice’s first significant public project in UK with the firm beating a top-flight shortlist – including Zaha Hadid, Bennetts, Mecanoo and Rafael Vinoly – to the deal back in autumn 2015.

Arts group Manchester International Festival, whose chairman is Urban Splash founder Tom Bloxham, will run Factory.