Factory reset

Steve Merridew, Building Services Engineering Director, analyses the lighting and building services marvel at Aviva Studios in Manchester

The new Aviva Studios in Manchester, once known as The Factory, stands as the UK’s most significant cultural investment since the Tate Modern’s inception in 2000. Spanning 14,000 square meters, this geometric marvel bridges Manchester and Salford, setting a new standard in cultural and leisure projects nationwide. Its versatility accommodates various art forms seamlessly, from dance and theatre to music and spoken word performances. Situated along the River Irwell, the venue intertwines art with public space, epitomizing a fully immersive experience, as showcased during its grand opening, directed by Danny Boyle.

Thanks to a multidisciplinary approach from BDP, the venue’s lighting, heating, cooling, and ventilation systems dynamically adjust to accommodate diverse event configurations. Collaborating closely with architect, OMA and interior designer Brinkworth, BDP’s lighting design team crafted a solution that not only complements the industrial aesthetic but also meets the demanding requirements of multifunctional spaces. From intimate theatre shows to multimedia extravaganzas, the lighting adapts effortlessly, enhancing both the building’s aesthetics and functionality.

To support this, a sophisticated Building Information Modelling (BIM) approach facilitated the integration of more than 164 luminaire types, including three bespoke designs developed in partnership with Stoane Lighting and Zumtobel. These luminaires exceed energy efficiency standards, ensuring optimal illumination levels.

Public areas beneath the venue are illuminated to cater to pedestrian and cyclist needs, enhancing safety and usability throughout the day and night. BDP’s iconic Ordsall Chord design further connects the venue to its surroundings, enhancing accessibility and integration with the urban landscape.

Inside, the main foyer sets the stage for visitors’ initial impressions, with lighting designed to evoke drama and anticipation while honouring the building’s industrial heritage. Throughout the venue, lighting serves both aesthetic and practical functions, seamlessly integrated into architectural elements to provide illumination and enhance safety.

The two main performance spaces, the Warehouse and the Hall, feature extensive lighting treatments tailored to their unique characteristics. The Warehouse’s adaptable design allows for various configurations, while the Hall boasts a traditional theatre setup with removable seating. Both spaces benefit from advanced lighting solutions that enhance visibility and ambience.

Andrew and Zoë Law Hall

In addition to lighting, the venue’s services infrastructure prioritises flexibility and adaptability. Segregated electrical systems ensure smooth operation during performances, while a centralised control system manages lighting and audiovisual setups, with ease. Ventilation strategies are carefully designed to maintain comfort without compromising performance quality.

Noise management is also a key consideration, with bespoke criteria established for each event scenario. Building physics modelling helps optimise heating modes to minimise noise during performances, ensuring a seamless experience for artists and audiences alike.

“Aviva Studios sets a new standard for cultural venues in the UK, combining functionality with artistic expression. From its innovative lighting design to adaptable services infrastructure, the venue embodies a harmonious fusion of creativity and practicality, paving the way for future aspirational projects.”

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