New Cornerhouse Cultural Hub

New proposals for a new arts and leisure cultural destination at the 20-acre First Street.

By Lee Isherwood | June 28th '12

New proposals for a new arts and leisure cultural destination at the 20-acre First Street site, the single largest undeveloped site in Manchester city centre, have been approved today by Manchester City Council. The authority’s planning committee approved the transformational plans for First Street North brought forward by Ask Developments, the council’s development partner.

Personally I’m not keen at all on the look of the building from this image, it looks like a very generic open plan office development, the sort of thing I would expect to see around to seeing around Canary Wharf or something. I’m not sure exactly how the Cornerhouse or any arts establishment housed there will retain it’s identity once placed inside a big glass building of this type, but hopefully I’m wrong. (I’ve attached below a picture of Belvedere office building, who recently stole our name as their strap line haha, right here in Manchester to demonstrate what I mean)

Ask has now been given the green light for a total floor space of 500,000 sq ft at the north of First Street adjoining Whitworth Street West, and is now set to deliver a new dynamic cultural and commercial heart of the city. The proposals include a home for the recently-merged Cornerhouse and Library Theatre Company, a new 208-bed 4-star hotel, 30,000 sq ft of retail, leisure, food and beverage in 8-10 units, and a 700 space multi-storey car park.

All that said I think they have probably employed the same principles as an office build, large open floor plans, LG7 compliant lighting, suspended ceilings & tiles (which I think you can actually see top floor of this image) and maybe even a BREEAM accreditation, all good and well if you’ve got a bit of character to go with it. Hopefully Dutch architect Mecanoo ,who won an international design competition to design the new arts centre, can bring life and soul into the space. That and the Bridgewater Hall has a similar glass look and fell but inside does manage to retain a nice, modern & creative space so there’s hope.

Dave Moutrey, Director and CEO of Cornerhouse and Library Theatre Company, said: “It is great news that we have reached this significant milestone on the journey to create our new home. Getting here is testament to the hard work of our design team and our partners. Although there is still lots to do, this announcement brings the whole project a lot closer.”

As well as being an addition to Manchester’s cultural life, the new arts centre will be a powerful catalyst for the next phase of First Street and its wider neighbourhood around Whitworth Street West. The new venue will have a 500-seat theatre, a 150-seat second theatre space, 500m2 double-height gallery space, up to five cinema screens, learning spaces, digital and broadcast production facilities, a café bar, restaurant and workshop spaces.

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: “The new cultural centre is an ambitious project which is acting as a catalyst to other job-creation activity in the wider First Street area. It is tremendously exciting that, against a difficult financial backdrop, Manchester is leading the way by making a major investment which is promoting vital economic – and creative – growth.”

With all this said I can’t wait to see the space, experience and enjoy it, I have reservations about it but they are only based on this one image they have sent over, I want this project to be a huge success not only financially for Manchester but also from a creative, architectural and cultural impact as well. As it stands I really hope I’m just judging a book by it’s cover.