UK's new Home arts venue is the star of its own show
A new arts venue in Manchester, UK, not only promises to deliver a world-class program of theater, film and visual art, but is high-tech, sustainable and very clever. Home is a purpose-built facility with exhibition, screening and performance spaces, as well as a bar and cafe.
The Home organization was formed by a merger of two of the city's existing arts venues: the Cornerhouse cinema and visual arts center and the Library Theatre Company. Project architect Mecanoo, which was shortlisted for last year's Stirling Prize, was chosen following an international design competition in 2011.
The £25 million (US$39 million) building is part of the 20-ac (81,000-sq m) First Street development that sits adjacent to the site of the old Haçienda nightclub. The redevelopment of the First Street site has also seen the construction of an office building, a hotel and a multi-story car-park, with Home aimed in part as being a further catalyst for the reanimation of the surrounding area.
Home itself sits on a difficult, albeit distinctive, 6,500 sq m (70,000 sq ft) triangular site squeezed between neighboring buildings and a railway viaduct (more on that later). The building's shape is softened by gently curved corners, while the exterior is replete with vertical fins and an iridescent façade that changes color with the weather.
Inside, the facilities make for a highly versatile arts center. Two theater auditoria seat 500 and 150 people respectively. The smaller of the two is designed to be highly versatile. Moveable seating and audiovisual terminals around the room allow it to be set up however a production requires. The space also features a sprung floor.
The larger of the two theaters, meanwhile, has tiered seating that is wheelchair accessible on every level and that can be rearranged for theater-in-the-round performances. High seat-backs cleverly double as handrails for people in the row behind. The main theater is also the first venue in the UK to have a permanently installed Solid State Logic Live L500 sound-desk and its stage flying systems are capable of lifting up to 26,660 kg (58,775 lb).
There are five cinema screens at Home, ranging from capacities of 40 to 250. These allow for films to be moved between screens depending on how popular they are proving to be, while also being able to cater for smaller events and private hires also. The largest screen is also equipped for 35 mm projection.
A 4-m (13-ft) high gallery on the ground floor provides a space for visual art exhibitions. The ground floor location helps to forefront the gallery and encourage people who may be visiting the venue for other reasons to take a look. It can be used as a single vast space or split into separate sections using partitions that rise from the floor.
Elsewhere, Home has a cafe, a bar with an outdoor seating terrace and additional spaces for events, rehearsing and offices. Movement around the building is facilitated by a large, striking central stairwell, which also acts as the main means of ventilation.
The building's temperature is monitored using a building management system, with windows automatically opened and closed when required. Air is drawn up naturally through the building via the stairwell, with old air expelled from the top of the building. Mechanical ventilation is employed only in the auditoria, to ensure they can be kept as soundproof as possible.
Indeed, soundproofing was a central requirement of the building's design. Located as it is only 6-7 m (20-23 ft) from a railway viaduct with frequent passenger and freight traffic, the building had to be constructed in such a way as to eliminate any subsequent sound and vibrations.
To do this, Mecanoo devised a box-in-a-box-in-a-box solution, whereby self-contained auditoria were built within the main body of the building, which in turn is wrapped in a thick concrete outer skin. This approach, coupled with the use of isolator bearing pads in the supporting structure, ensures that there is no trickle-through of noise or vibration.
Among the other features of Home is a high level of connectivity within the building. CAT 6 and fiber cabling, as well as connection terminals throughout the building, means that video and audio can be relayed from one space to virtually any other space. This allows for the broadcasting of events to screens around the building or live orchestras can accompany theatrical performances from other rooms.
Home was designed from 2011-2012 and constructed between 2012-2015. It is expected to receive around 500,000 visits a year, with low cost tickets made available to some community groups. It opens its doors with a celebratory weekend of events from May 21-23.
The video below provides an introduction to Home.