A ‘beautiful’ city is almost always a perfect magnet for tourists, and consequently, a fertile ground to build and grow any business. Culture, in this case, plays an important role in revitalizing urban spaces and may even serve as the sole basis for establishing new architectural movements, artistic trends, and even business concepts. Read more on The Guardian:
Rem Koolhaas and Ellen van Loon of OMA architecture practice are in conversation at the Manchester International festival, talking about the major contract they landed for the Manchester arts centre Factory: a hub for cultural activity and soon to be home of the Manchester festival. “We need to give more attention to the technology of buildings, robotics, new spatial management,” Koolhaas says. I feel the bristling of the humans in the room.
But he is on to something. Space is often wasted by use of repetition but with canny robotics, and snuggled pullies, you can enfold and stack space that was once elongated and create something new from it – in the case of the proposed Factory, a rationalised chaos of adjustable use and activity.
So what will the culture houses of the future look like, if we think outside the box? What uses will they need to fulfil? How will big ideas – like those for Factory – play out in real life? And what can cities do to encourage cultural experiments and investment?
Koolhaas and van Loon want a theatre with 60m of depth that extends out into and merges with the street. As an artistic director, I worry about the performance scale of a hanger space like this and how it will dwarf the humans on stage. I fret about sound bleeds too. But in the future, they offer, there will be invisible sound bubbles and a kind of aural architecture; sound might one day be stilled, collected and quarantined from itself. We have the technology – or at least we will.
At an investment of £110m, Factory is not a shy project. Like the city it is responding to and planning for, it implies a cultural confidence, a bit of a bolshie sense of taking it up to the big smoke of London. Manchester, once grubby, depressed and down, has been on the up and up for some time. The role of culture in this upswing is interesting to think about.
Culture has become a boom for numerous cities who have bought into the regeneration narrative led by urbanists such as Graeme Evans and Susan Carmichael – the idea that culture plays a leading role in revitalising community and urban spaces. Not long after Evans and Carmichael’s ideas were floated, cities – particularly smart cities, with a young vibe – began to enthusiastically embrace the thoughts of other gurus, such as Richard Florida’s concept of creative cities.
People who live in or visit these cities are not, Florida suggests, especially interested in dusty cultural institutions – high-profile art galleries, operas and such. They prefer to meander about in districts characterised by warehouses, and the hole-in-the-wall operations of nascent pop-up culture – cafes, start-up galleries – which themselves breed the next gen of outlets: bookshops, grassroots and recycle boutiques.
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