A series of new cultural and performance venues are now adaptive, able to be reconfigured for different use cases. Launching 18 October, Aviva Studios is a brand-new cultural landmark in Manchester “built with flexibility in mind” and will become the permanent home for the arts organisation Factory International, creators of the Manchester International Festival.

Designed by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, the building was conceived to offer an ultra-flexible space that can be adapted to suit different events or performances. The building’s main event space, the Warehouse features a 21-meter-high movable acoustic wall which allows the space to be divided to suit any experience, from major exhibitions to more intimate performances.

Lead architect Ellen van Loon has said the venue is “a space that can create multiple opportunities and endless configurations and environments. It will be a new type of performance space, a unique crossover between a fixed theatre and flexible warehouse.”

To celebrate the opening, Aviva Studios is hosting Free Your Mind, a live immersive dance show based on The Matrix and directed by Danny Boyle, which will play out across the entirety of the building’s flexible spaces.

More arts venues are now investing in flexibility, to enable their spaces to morph and flex as needed. The Perelman Center for the Performing Arts designed by REX Architects opened September 2023. Located next to the memorial for the World Trade Center in New York, the cube-shaped building is planned around three venues which can be used independently or combined into ten different possible arrangements. These can then be further tailored to performance needs via movable floors, balconies and seating, resulting in more than 60 possible configurations in total (see video clip below of the theater's mechanics).

In late 2022, the design and innovation studio CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati and architect Italo Rota collaborated to transform a former hospital into one of Italy’s leading cultural hubs: AGO Modena. The design features a lightweight, kinetic roof which can fold and move to create different spatial configurations. At the launch, Carlo Ratti, founding partner of CRA and director of the Senseable City Lab at MIT commented, “Cultural spaces should be thought of as dynamic, capable of incorporating change over time. AGO’s architecture sets up flexible, reconfigurable spaces where past and future complement each other.”

The concept of flexible architecture is not entirely novel. The Shed at Hudson Yards in New York which opened in 2019 features a moveable roof which can be rolled on wheels to double the size of the performance space for example. But in an unpredictable era and one in which investments need to work harder than ever, flexibility is an asset for buildings of any kind, helping to futureproof them for the evolving ways we collectively occupy space. In the future, these multifunctional, multi-purpose spaces are likely to become the norm not the exception.

Please provide your contact information to continue.

Before submitting your information, please read our Privacy Policy as it contains detailed information on the processing of your personal data and how we use it.

Related Content

HERO 031122 Spatial Roger Ho 04820

Audio architecture

As offices reopen, businesses are leveraging the power of audio to design a more compelling employee experience.
Read Article
A large, multi-level sloping building with climbable rooftops covered in flora and fauna. The building walls are glass and the viewer can see people walking around inside the building. The image shows a ground floor, with 4 sloping ramps to a rooftop.

Intentional public spaces

Functional, collective spaces are harnessing new approaches to inclusivity, sustainability, and community reach.
Read Article