Inside Manchester’s new arts centre Home

As Home prepares for its Danny Boyle-curated opening weekend we speak to architect practice Mecanoo, which has designed right through and looked to reconcile the needs of the newly merged Cornerhouse and the Library Theatre Company.

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Image: Paul Karalius

Manchester’s new £25 million arts centre Home opens officially this week and has been designed by Dutch architect practice Mecanoo.

It is the result of the merger of cinema and visual arts centre Cornerhouse and the Library Theatre Company.

Home has a triangular form with rounded edges and is clad in a glazed iridescent façade, which will reflect the skies and the surrounding building and offer views inside the building beyond its irregularly spaced pillars.

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Image: Paul Karalius

The mixed-use centre comprises gallery, theatre and cinema spaces, and uses the curved corners of the building’s design to integrate functional rooms – such as one of five cinemas.

Mecanoo architect and co-owner Francesco Veenstra says: “The cinema has a curved back wall and screen. We’ve turned a potential issue into a benefit, by creating unusual spaces with a strong identity.”

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Image: Paul Karalius

The interior feel of the whole space is described by Mecanoo as an “urban living room instilling a sense of warmth and intimacy.”

Veenstra says: “The most important thing was to try and capture the essence of Cornerhouse and the Library Theatre company. The new venue has literally become home so we really wanted to assimilate the identity of the people into a raw generous space. We’ve used wood, plywood, concrete and steel inside and it really feels like an artistic space where people are the most important thing.”

On the first floor the main theatre is split into three sub levels of seating. Of the 500 block colour seats, no seat is further than 10 meters from the stage.

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Image: Paul Karalius

“We’ve tried to create a different atmosphere to other theatres where the seats are always one colour. It’s given it more identity and will create a more lively experience for everyone – even the actors,” says Veenstra.

A 150-seat studio theatre space is found on the second floor and the third and fourth floors contain the cinema spaces.

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Image: Paul Karalius

On the ground floor a four-meter high gallery space will host art installations and can be used as an open planned space or divided depending on the needs of the show.

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Image: Paul Karalius

All of the spaces are connected by a central stairwell, which connects bars and restaurants and has been designed to draw people away from the performance areas to avoid disturbance and disruption.

Veenstra says: “There can potentially be 20-30 screenings per day and two to four theatre performances, so a high footfall. We’ve made the staircase wide and enclosed to deal with this and it’s very much part of the interior experience.”

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Image: Paul Karalius

The staircase also has a ventilation function and is a conduit for air-flow. “It works almost as a chimney,” says Veenstra, and the whole building relies on “mechanical ventilation”.

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Image: Paul Karalius

On the first floor the restaurant has been designed to feel light and spacious while a roof terrace on the second floor gives a view onto the square.

“The rugged concrete floors and walls contrast beautifully with the warm oak of the bar,” says Veenstra.

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Image: Paul Karalius

Home’s branding has been rolling out for more than a year as part of stakeholder and community engagement.

Creative Concern worked on brand strategy and brand application and O Street has designed the visual identity.

The main brand colour Home Red is a rusty red brick colour, which a Home spokeswoman says “reflects Manchester’s industry and Victorian buildings but is also very warm and inviting.”

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Website designed by Instruct Studio

A primary palette of silver and grey can be mixed with a flexible secondary palette of anything at all.

“This means the identity can grow and adapt, so if it was being used with a particular artist’s work it could match the colour they have used,” she adds.

The opening of Home will be marked this weekend with a series of events curated by film director Danny Boyle.

All images by Paul Karalius (except CGI box office and website).

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