Thursday, 25 November 2010

Cornerhouse and Library Theatre to Share New Home

Cornerhouse Entrance (from Cornerhouse Website)

Two of Manchester's leading institutions for the visual arts have announced plans this week to share a purpose built facility in the City Centre. Cornerhouse is a centre for contemporary visual arts and film in Manchester, located on a prominent and busy site at the intersection of Oxford Street and Whitworth Street, with Oxford Road Station nestled in behind. The Manchester Library Theatre Company has, over the past 58 years, produced high quality seasons of drama, musical theatre and plays with a growing education programme in the basement of Manchester Central Library.

A new "major cultural facility" will become the home for both Cornerhouse and Library Theatre Company. The City Council hopes that the new £19 million purpose-built facility - boasting five cinemas, 600 sq m of contemporary gallery space, a 500-seat theatre and smaller studio/education spaces - will help "unlock" up to 10,000 jobs in a key regeneration area in Manchester city centre - The First Street development.

Dave Moutrey, the Cornerhouse Chief Exectuive, had this to say on his blog: "Clearly the arts do have real hard economic value and can make a very positive impact on people's lives so it is a credit to Manchester that public and private sectors recognise this and are still prepared to act." Whilst Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, said: "These highly imaginative proposals will be a win-win for Manchester. They support existing jobs and will help attract others to this important gateway site. In the aftermath of the recession and facing unprecedented public sector cuts this is exactly the sort of scheme we need to get people into work, get our economy moving even faster, and show the world that Manchester is still an ambitious city still on the up."

Cornerhouse has drawn up a number of plans for expansion in recent years, most recently there was Arca's black rubber-clad box (2008) and David Chipperfield's reworking of the former Kinemacolour Palace cinema (1998). However, it appears that the constraints of the site and the current building have meant that a move to a new purpose-built facility, with the increased potential to expand its creative programme, is too attractive to turn down.Nothing has yet been announced about the redevelopment of the Cornerhouse's current home but occupying such a key site in the City Centre careful consideration should be given to programme this takes.

The Library Theatre, as part of the ongoing refurbishment work to Manchester Central Library (by Ryder Architecture), was investigating the potential of moving to the Theatre Royal in Peter Street (being worked on by Stephenson Bell) however these has been scrapped on cost grounds.

'Functional model and outline design concept'
by RHWL for developer of the site, Ask (from Architects Journal)

The new site, close to the former Hacienda club on Whitworth Street, could be open by 2014. An international design competition will be launched for the project which already has £16 million of financing ring fenced (as part of the Library Theatre relocation deal) and a further £3 million expected to come from third party contributions and future capital receipts.

Read the full 'Report for Resolution - First Street Cultural Facility' by Manchester City Council here.

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