Aviva Studios was first imagined nearly a decade ago. The proposal: a building like no other.

Look back on the construction of Aviva Studios with four commissioned projects: podcast Making the Factory, Ming de Nasty's Under Construction and photography by Hélène Binet and Pawel Paniczko.

The Vision

Making the Factory was recorded over a four-year period and charts the highs and lows of building an ambitious arts venue.

Episode one takes us back to 2019, where Factory International's Artistic Director John McGrath stands on the empty building site of what is now Aviva Studios.

A Building Like No Other

Episode two focuses on the spectacular design. World-famous architect Ellen Van Loon – of the award-winning Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) – talks about her vision for the building and what makes Aviva Studios truly unique.

The build

The scale of the proposal required a massive team of people to make it happen. Laing O'Rourke led the build with the help of several construction companies from across Greater Manchester.

We commissioned three talented photographers to document the build of Aviva Studios: Ming de Nasty, Pawel Paniczko and Hélène Binet. Each took a different approach to capturing the build.

Ming de Nasty: Under Construction

Over the course of the build, iconic photographer Ming de Nasty captured portraits of the workers bringing the space to life. Under Construction is a celebration of the unseen work and workers that built Aviva Studios.

A selection of these portraits are on display at Aviva Studios throughout The Welcome – our nine-day cultural celebration to mark the opening of Aviva Studios.

Pawel Paniczko

Pawel Paniczko is an award-winning photographer based in Manchester, whose work features contemporary architecture.

For Factory International, he was commissioned to capture the build of Aviva Studios. His photography takes us from the start of the build in May 2019 right up until the opening in 2023.

Hélène Binet

Hélène Binet is an internationally acclaimed Swiss/French photographer based in London. She creates large-format photography and works exclusively with film. Her work has been exhibited around the world – most recently at PSA, Shanghai. In 2019, she was awarded the Ada Louise Huxtable Prize for her exceptional contribution in the field of architecture.

Also in 2019, Hélène Binet began documenting the construction of the building. Look out for an exhibition of her photography coming to Aviva Studios in Spring 2024.

How do you create a programme to match such a radical building? Imagine the impossible.

The Programme

In episode three of Making the Factory, Creative Director Low Kee Hong and Senior Producer Anna Moutrey discuss the transition from Manchester International Festival – an 18-day, biennial festival – to huge arts venue with a year-round programme.

Also meet the creatives behind the first projects to premiere at Aviva Studios: Deborah Warner's Arcadia at MIF19 and our official opening show Free Your Mind in October 2023.

The Virtual Programme

Episode four takes us back to the Covid-19 lockdowns and their impact on the building, construction and programme.

John McGrath explores the connections built online during the pandemic and the thrilling digital programme that emerged as a result.

Plus a sneak peek at two of our virtual projects: Factory Settings and I CAN’T FOLLOW YOU ANYMORE.

The Community

In the final episode of Making the Factory, we explore the potential for Aviva Studios to be a gathering space for Manchester's many communities.

Plus, we look ahead to our massive cultural celebration The Welcome coming in November 2023.

The Opening

In 2023, Aviva Studios was finally finished.

We gave the public a sneak preview of the building for MIF23 before our official opening show Free Your Mind in October.

Making the Factory – Credits

Commissioned by Factory International. Produced by Geoff Bird for Sparklab Productions.

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