The Factory Allied London
The 143,000 sq ft scheme is due to complete in December 2022

MCC: tweaks won’t impact Factory budget 

Dan Whelan

Several changes to the design and appearance of the £186m Manchester arts venue are proposed, but the city council insists no extra cost has been incurred. 

The planned changes include using a different kind of cladding, swapping the kind of glass used for curtain walling, and the repositioning and resizing of windows “to ensure appropriate light levels and privacy is achieved”, according to a planning statement by Deloitte Real Estate. 

“There are no extra costs here, beyond what had already been reported in October last year,” a spokesperson from Manchester City Council said. 

“There is no reduction in quality, no dilution of the original vision and no negative impact on – or significant change to – its appearance.”  

The project has been beset with delays and spiralling costs over the years. Manchester City Council noted in a report in October that delays caused by the pandemic, and other challenges, meant that the project needed an additional £45m to complete – pushing the budget to £186m in total. 

Now, the single-ply cladding that was originally proposed for the theatre is to be replaced by white standing seam metal, as “a suitable fire safety standard could not be achieved”, the planning statement said. 

The channel glass that was to be used on the back-of-house towers has been changed in favour of glazed curtain walling as the original material was not able to achieve the acoustic levels the venue required, according to Deloitte. 

In addition, the truck lift element of the project, located next to the main theatre building, was due to be clad but, after the concrete was poured, the design team decided the finish was “much higher-quality” than initially anticipated, and thus cladding on this element is no longer required. 

Permission to implement the changes requires planning consent due to the use of different materials to those originally specified in the planning permission granted in 2018, a city council spokesperson said. 

They added: “The Factory will play an important role in the city’s economic recovery from the impacts of the pandemic and we look forward to the positive impact it will have. 

“Construction is well advanced and good progress is being made.” 

Designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas’s studio OMA, The Factory is backed by Manchester City Council, which invested £20m in the 143,000 sq ft scheme in 2018, the Government, from which it has a £78m grant, and the National Lottery, which has provided £7m. 

The Factory Street View Across The River Copyright OMA

Plans for the scheme were approved in 2018

Last December, the venue received a £21m cash injection from the Department for Culture, Media & Sport and Arts Council England, intended to help offset a string of challenges that have led to mounting costs and project delays. 

The Factory is intended to be a modern and innovative arts and culture hub for Manchester in developer Allied London’s St John’s mixed-use neighbourhood, and to serve as a permanent home for the Manchester International Festival. 

It is scheduled to complete by December 2022. 

Last November, the city council hired Flan McNamara, a former construction chief at Sellar Property Group, developer of London’s Shard tower, as a consultant to help progress the scheme.  

McNamara is working with The Factory’s main contractor Laing O’Rourke to deliver the project and help it stay within budget and on schedule. 

The council predicts the scheme to bring a £1.1bn boost to Manchester in the first decade after its completion. The intention is for The Factory and MIF to commission and present a year-round programme of ground-breaking interdisciplinary work by artists from around the world. 

The venue is anticipated to attract up to 850,000 visitors a year and host a range of performances, from music, dance, theatre, opera, visual arts, and contemporary work incorporating the latest digital technologies. 

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I look forward to seeing this delivered at last. The whole St Johns area is being transformed. This will link well into Spinngingfields and the New Bailey district and really adds something significant to the city centre.

By Cityscape

This, and the whole area, will be transformational for Manchester post COVID. A rare and unique opportunity for a city outside of London. Bring it on! The Manchester renaissance continues.

By MB

Bloody shame the white single ply has been swapped out, the alternative isn’t an appropriate replacement in my view. We need more non combustible materials to market so we’re not left with bricks, concrete and metal.

By Graham

Stunning development it will be a great asset for Greater Manchester.

By Monty

I actually prefer the renders of the new cladding system over the original

By New Wave