Arts center It may sound strange, but I’m taking you to see the toilets,’ says Ellen van Loon, the RIBA award-winning Dutch architect who, since 2003, has built Tate, Britain’s biggest arts and culture center since the Museum of Modern Art. Art. “We have a DJ here,” Van Loon points to the far left corner of the spacious unisex restroom. “Any room can be a performance space, and restrooms are no exception.”
That’s the lofty premise of Aviva Studios, an ambitious architectural project less than eight years in the making that hopes to take “the next step,” as Van Loon puts it, in performing arts. With an estimated cost of up to 240 million pounds (about 292 million dollars), the new cultural center can be considered another jewel in the crown of the British capital. However, this 13,350m2 post-industrial building is located in the heart of Manchester – around 200 miles north of London. This type of investment is rare in the North of England. Earlier this month, the UK government announced it was scrapping plans to link Manchester to the Midlands via the HS2 high-speed rail line, the country’s biggest infrastructure project to date. The region’s arts sector has also seen a steady decline in government funding over the past decade. But the region could now see some long-awaited spending as Arts Council England – a charity and public sector organization sponsored by the UK’s Department for Culture – announced last year that it would invest £383.5 million in 282 arts organizations in the north of England from 2023-2026. Arts Council England has provided a further £9.9 million. in Aviva Studios until 2026.
Manchester City Council leader Bev Craig called the project a “long-term dream” at a press conference ahead of the building’s official opening. She told international journalists that Manchester was “a city that had its place in the industrial revolution over 100 years ago”. Many hope that projects like Aviva Studios will help the city find its footing again.
“Walls always get in the way”
Van Loon has collaborated with Rotterdam architects OMA on buildings such as the Music House in Portugal, the Qatar National Library in Doha and the CCTV Building in Beijing. She fears that the center will become another faceless renovation project. “I’m really worried that this kind of post-industrial architecture will disappear and the city will be filled with shiny new buildings,” she told CNN. “I always worry that cities try to look the same. A city like Manchester could say it wants to be like London, which I think is a shame. It is important to maintain these characteristics. “Instead, the building’s raw concrete exterior and exposed steel joints pay homage to Manchester’s history as the world’s first industrial city. OMA won a competition to design the arts and culture center in 2015, and it took Van Loon just 10 days to develop the proposal, although she admits the initial drawings have changed significantly. “We didn’t design the back lot,” she said, referring to the part of the building that houses the cemetery, locker rooms and on-site offices. “We didn’t even have a model, but we had an idea. It was an idea.”
The plan is to create a fully customizable, flexible and adaptable theater and exhibition space to suit any artist or book event. “Most performance spaces today are quite traditional in design with fixed seating. There is little flexibility in these spaces,” she said. “Walls always get in the way, because every artist wants to increase the sides or the back. It made us think, ‘OK, of course you’re going to build some walls, but we want to place them so that it’s like at at least as much as possible.”
When you enter Aviva Studios, much of what you see, temporary or movable, is made possible by a massive ceiling installation that surrounds the building’s two main operational spaces: the warehouse and the hall. Set design, artists or production equipment can be suspended through a complex lattice in a warehouse with a working weight of 200 tons.
With a height of almost 69 feet, the warehouse can be confidently transformed into any type of space. It is also long enough to fit a Boeing 747. On October 13, the warehouse will host the futuristic runway for Trainspotting director Danny Boyle’s interpretive dance performance Free Your Mind, inspired by the 1999 classic The Matrix. A soft white circular wall hangs inside the warehouse, designed by British set designer Es Devlin. Two white portholes at either end of the runway lead to the wall and become a stage to the right and left of the dancers. A long LED screen hangs from the net above. The suspended scenography effect gives the space an immersive, three-dimensional quality compared to building from scratch. This is the “modern thinking” that Van Loon hopes her architecture will create.
There is also a more traditional theater – Den Store Sal – with seating for around 1,600 people. That’s a rough estimate, as the venue has a similar fluid design: while the fixed balcony can hold 640 people, the 323 seats on the lower level can be completely removed for more standing room, while the stage has enough space for a large stage. to seat 80 Human draft. Orchestra.
Most of the walls where the Vanroon will be structurally installed are also removable. A key feature of Aviva Studios is the building’s unique ability to connect warehouse and lobby spaces. A 36-foot-long removable acoustic wall separates the two areas, a wall that allows the building to host two events at once, but is flexible enough to be removed entirely. This architectural feat was one of Boyle’s opening night masterpieces. While the focus was on the lead dancer, who was dressed in a flowing red dress designed by Gareth Pugh, the back of the stage began to rise like a giant curtain, revealing hidden depths and making the stage more street-like”.
“It’s rare that the client agrees with you when I propose a new concept,” Van Loon said. “Usually they say, ‘Oh, has this been done anywhere else?’ When I say, ‘No,’ the answer is, ‘No, it’s too risky.’ But I think this building, whatever you think — maybe some users do” Some users don’t like it – at least it’s an example of how to do the task differently.”