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Expert defends Manchester Factory contest jury

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Leading competition organiser Malcolm Reading has backed Manchester city council’s decision not to include an architect on the competition jury for a £110m new arts venue.

As AJ revealed earlier this month, the high-profile competition for The Factory - a planned 2,200-capacity venue on the former Granada Studios site - will not be judged by an architect.

Critics including former RIBA president Angela Brady have criticised this with Brady saying it is ‘imperative’ that there is at least one experienced architect on the selection panel.

But Reading, chairman of Malcolm Reading Consultants and an AJ columnist has disagreed, echoing Manchester council leader and jury member Richard Leese in saying that its approach is justified, not least because the competition is to select a designer rather than a design.

In his latest column in AJ’s business section Reading wrote: ‘The blunt fact is that practicing architects are usually best on the other side of the table – pushing their passion, imagining the future and generating innovation.

‘Juries…need veteran building users and real patrons – people with experience and judgement who can enable others’ creativity to flourish and ripen – with the foresight to back the right team.’

The competition process for The Factory also includes a technical panel. This too contains no architect but was praised by Reading for its ‘impressive range of development and placemaking expertise.’

In September the council revealed an impressive nine-strong shortlist for the project which included a number of global stars such as Zaha Hadid Architecture and Rem Koolhaas’ OMA (AJ 23.09.15).

Factory Manchester jury in full:

  • Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council
  • Tom Bloxham, chairman of the Manchester International Festival and Urban Splash
  • Michael Ingall, chief executive of Allied London


The judges will be supported by a technical panel which includes:

  • Maria Balshaw, director of the Whitworth, University of Manchester and Manchester City Galleries
  • Pat Bartoli, head of the council’s City Centre Regeneration Team
  • John McGrath, artistic director and chief executive of the Manchester International Festival
  • Greg Attwood, development director at Allied London.
  • Dave Carty, development manager of the council’s City Centre Regeneration
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