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Poor acoustics force Manchester’s £110m Factory back to drawing board

Factory is designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas' firm OMA. Photo: OMA
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Designs for Manchester’s £110 million arts centre the Factory are being redrawn after a review found the originals to not be fit for purpose.

The project received planning permission in January but the council will now have to spend an extra £1.65 million changing the designs.

The Factory was first announced in 2014. It has been given a £78 million grant from central government, as well as a £9 million annual grant from 2018-19.

It is designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas’ firm OMA.

The ‘novelty’ glazed and concrete exterior in the original plans will “compromise the acoustic performance of the venue”, a review submitted to Manchester City Council claimed.

Elsewhere, the theatre’s design was found to be too complex and the orchestra pit too small.

The review, conducted by Manchester City Council, has put forward a revised scheme in which the building’s facades will be altered to stay in keeping with the original design concept but without any associated acoustic issues. The theatre will be simplified and made “more intimate and balanced”, and its capacity reduced from 1,700 to 1,500 seats.

The report said that after testing the with other venues and promoters, it was agreed that the orchestra pit must be in line with “the expectations of a venue of this size and quality”, and should therefore be increased from a 50 to 80-player capacity.

The Factory is due to open in September 2020. It was originally scheduled to open in time for the 2019 Manchester International Festival, which will provide a year-round programme once building is in operation. However, the timings were pushed back earlier this year.

The budget will have to increase by £1.65 million to £111.65 million to accommodate these changes, but the report said the progress of the construction would not be impacted by having to submit a fresh planning application later this year.

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