Statement on Factory International

Factory International is a global destination for arts, music and culture opening in the heart of Manchester in 2023.

The design of the landmark new cultural space is led by Ellen van Loon of the world-leading practice Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), their first major public building in the UK. Its development is being led by Manchester City Council, with backing from HM Government and Arts Council England.

Programmed and operated by the team behind Manchester International Festival (MIF), Factory International will commission, produce and present an ambitious year-round programme of original creative work, music and special events by leading artists from across the globe. It will also stage the city-wide Festival every other year, at Factory International and at venues and spaces across Greater Manchester. Driven by the same interests and ambitions that defines MIF, artists will be encouraged to create work in new ways, to collaborate across disciplines and blur the boundaries between art and popular culture.

At 13,350 square metres, the building design is based around large, open, ultra-flexible spaces that can be constantly reconfigured, enabling large-scale artistic work of invention and ambition that isn’t made anywhere else in the world. It will offer audiences the opportunity to enjoy year-round, in a new world-class facility, the broadest range of art forms, from major exhibitions and concerts to intimate performances and immersive experiences including over 80 gigs a year.

Its public spaces, from the foyers to its outdoor areas, will come alive with year-round activities such as family friendly workshops, pop-up food stalls, music, workshops and markets, many of them free, creating a thriving riverside destination for everyone to enjoy.

International in spirit and practice, Factory International will collaborate with venues, festivals and companies across the world to commission artists together. Working with local, national and international partners and co-producers, it will produce and premiere major new work, before it travels globally, and share ideas, projects and training with peers worldwide.

The possibilities of digital technology lie at the heart of the vision for Factory International, driving experimentation and innovation in its physical productions and enabling the creation of entirely new experiences for audiences through digital first works created within the virtual world. It will also engage audiences beyond its physical structures through broadcast and streaming of live and hybrid projects.

A laboratory for experimentation and R&D, Factory International will be a training ground for the next generation of creators. Artists from Manchester and all over the world will be commissioned to make new work in physical and online realms, while talent development programmes such as the Factory Fellowships will see emerging artists placed alongside international creatives.

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Factory International will play an important role in the lives of Greater Manchester residents, building on MIF’s record of working with communities and bringing jobs, skills, training and creative opportunities for local people and artists. Through the Factory Academy, it will become a major training centre for local people, equipping them with the skills needed for careers in the creative industries and helping to build the technicians, producers and other creative talent that will bring the future alive.

Factory International will be a space where local people are actively involved – from participating in flagship commissions, co-designing programmes of activity, to shaping the organisation through involvement in its public forums. Community decision making will be at the heart of the organisation from the outset with The Welcome, a series of events chosen and curated by a group of Greater Manchester residents aged 17 to 70.

Through partnerships with schools and collaborations with local arts and education organisations, Factory International will provide a range of year-round learning opportunities for Greater Manchester residents of all ages, embedding arts and creativity into school, college, and university curriculums and beyond.

Rooted in Manchester, Factory International will strengthen the city’s status as a national and international centre for culture, creativity and innovation, as well as a major visitor destination attracting international visitors, benefiting both the visitor economy and tourism to the city. The economic impact of Factory International will be considerable, creating or supporting up to 1,500 direct and indirect jobs and adding £1.1 billion to the city’s economy over a decade.

Located in the St John’s neighbourhood next to the River Irwell, Factory International will be at the heart of a burgeoning city centre hub for culture, creativity and digital innovation and make a major contribution to the ongoing regeneration of this part of the city centre.

Architectural Statement

Factory International embraces Manchester’s industrial as well as its creative past. Its concrete and corrugated metal facades stand against the refurbished brick warehouses and new build flats, offices, and television studios that make up the new St. John’s neighbourhood.

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The building’s main event space, the warehouse, is conceived as one large industrial space, left bare to be adapted by its users as they see fit. The arches that once supported the historic viaduct known as the Pineapple Line are preserved as part of the foyer. A technical grid on the warehouse ceiling permits any type of use, from concert to exhibition. A movable full-height acoustic wall, 21 metres tall, can divide the space so that two events can coexist without disturbance.

The warehouse is complemented by the hall, a 1,600-seat auditorium with a flexible stage, adaptable to ballet, theatre, music, and cross-art performances. The warehouse and the hall can work in tandem: the proscenium opens fully into the warehouse and allows the stage to run deeper into the building. At street level, Factory International’s design has allowed the creation of a significant area of public space along the River Irwell.


Factory International is located in the centre of Manchester along the River Irwell and forms part of the city’s major St. John’s Quarter redevelopment. The site is part of the Castlefield Conservation Area, which includes the Science and Industry Museum located on a globally significant industrial heritage site including the world’s oldest surviving passenger railway and world’s first railway goods warehouse. The redevelopment scheme will revive the entire site of the former Granada TV Studios, which is being transformed into a burgeoning city centre hub for culture, creativity and digital innovation.

Key Milestones

• November 2015: OMA selected as winner of the international competition to design Factory International. The project marks OMA’s first major public building in the UK.
• 8 July 2017: Groundbreaking Ceremony with performance by Laurie Anderson for Manchester International Festival.
• July 2021: Deborah Warner’s installation Arcadia takes place at Factory International as part of Manchester International Festival.
• June 2023: Factory International opens to the public

Project Specifications
Site: 1.80 hectares
Gross Internal Area (GIA): 13,350sqm
Warehouse Capacity: Up to 5,000 people standing (2,565 sqm)
Hall Capacity: Multiple configurations with maximum of 1,600 seated, 22m wide proscenium and orchestra pit for 80 musicians

Design Features

The design of Factory International is based around large, open, flexible spaces that will constantly change and reconfigure to meet the needs of the work created and presented in the building. Key elements include:

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Warehouse: 30m wide, 65.65m long, 21m (clear) high, the warehouse is the ultimate flexible performance space, with a theatre grid spanning the entirety of the area. At 21 metres tall, it is higher than four double decker buses stacked on top of each other and is the length of a Boeing 747 aeroplane. The warehouse is situated over Water Street.

Hall: 2 foyers with bars, fixed seating at the balcony for 640, flexible stalls for multiple seated (max 1380) and standing configurations, flexible orchestra pit and 22m wide proscenium opening to warehouse a where stage can be placed.

Back of House Towers: Support including green room, dressing rooms, offices.

Foyer: Primary foyer facing Water Street serving both the hall and the warehouse. It is framed by Grade II listed railway arches at the south with a connection to the Science and Industry Museum.

Outdoor spaces: New outdoor spaces will provide visitors with a setting to enjoy the building and surrounding environment, including the River Irwell – an almost unique experience in central Manchester. A number of trees will also be planted.

Environmental Sustainability

Factory International is committed to sustainability and social responsibility. It is on a path towards zero-carbon activity by 2028 and will work with industry partners to test and pilot innovative sustainability technology.

The capital project has invested significantly in the building fabric to create acoustically insulated spaces enveloped in a very high thermal mass which reduces the amount of energy required for heating, and high-performance glazing also reduces the amount of energy required for cooling. The fresh-air ventilation system closely monitors the air quality in the building to match the flow rate with the occupancy to minimise energy consumption and maintain comfort for each size of event. Waste heat is also recovered. The building is targeted to achieve a BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) assessment rating “Very Good”. A BREEAM rating is generated by measuring and grading projects against 103 different sustainability criteria covering the management of the project, materials and delivery.

Construction and Delivery

The development of Factory International is being led by Manchester City Council in partnership with Manchester International Festival.

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