The Lowry is a theatre and gallery complex situated on Pier 8 at Salford Quays, in Salford, Greater Manchester, England. It is named after the early 20th century painter L. S. Lowry, known for his paintings of industrial scenes in North West England. The complex was officially opened on 12 October 2000 by Queen Elizabeth II.
To redevelop the derelict Manchester docks (in Salford), Salford City Council developed a regeneration plan in 1988 for the brownfield site highlighting the leisure, cultural and tourism potential of the area, and included a flagship development that would involve the creation of a performing arts centre. The initial proposals were for two theatres and an art gallery on a prominent site on Pier 8.
Between 1990 and 1991 a competition was launched and architects James Stirling Michael Wilford Associates was selected. After the death of James Stirling in June 1992 Michael Wilford continued the project. The city council bid for Millennium and other British and European funds and private sector finance to progress the project. Funding was secured in 1996 and The Lowry Trust became responsible for the project which comprised The Lowry Centre, the plaza, a footbridge, a retail outlet shopping mall and Digital World Centre. The National Lottery provided over £21 million of funding towards its construction. The project was completed in 1999 at a cost of £106 million. The Lowry name was adopted in honour of the local artist, L. S. Lowry.
The complex is close to the Imperial War Museum North and the Old Trafford football stadium. It is served by the MediaCityUK stop on the Metrolink tram network. In 2010 and 2011 it was Greater Manchester's most visited tourist attraction. A sting operation by the Salford Star in 2006 attempted to demonstrate intolerance towards unaccompanied teenagers in hoodies entering the complex.
The complex was designed by Michael Wilford with structural engineer Buro Happold and constructed by Bovis Construction. Groundbreaking took place on 19 June 1997. The Lowry is built on a triangular site at the end of Pier 8 and has a triangular plan. A promenade encircling the building provides views of the Manchester Ship Canal, MediaCityUK and the Salford Quays developments.
The foyer faces the public plaza, where there is a large aerofoil canopy at the entrance clad with perforated steel and illuminated from inside at night. Much of the building is clad in stainless steel and glass.
The Lowry was described as "not quite 'Salford's Guggenheim' ... It is ultimately too small and too well behaved ... although there are obvious shared aims", a reference to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, which was built for similar reasons.
The Lowry footbridge spanning the ship canal was designed and project managed by Parkman, with design support from Carlos Fernandez Casado. It is a lift bridge with a clear span of 100 metres (330 ft), which lifts vertically to provide a 26-metre (85 ft) clearance for shipping using the canal. The bridge span is a tied arch and the towers are constructed in tubular steelwork to provide an open aspect to view the lifting counterweight and sheaves.
In November 2015, the Lowry opened a new bar and restaurant, called Pier 8, after a 12 week closure on the original bar and restaurant. The new space cost £3m to develop and is part of an ongoing £5m investment programme to improve facilities and reduce the environmental footprint of the complex.
The new features include a zinc topped curving bar with room to seat 150 people for casual dining. The bar also has a feature tree with leaves made from cotton, to commemorate Salford Quays’ history at the centre of the cotton shipping industry. The new restaurant contains seven private booths, a newly designed open kitchen, and a second large room at the rear which can be opened up to accommodate more diners or private functions. Major structural changes have taken place in the building for the design, including the removal of a large staircase and the addition of an external entrance to the bar and restaurant, as well as added areas made to look like shipping containers.
The complex contains 2,000 square metres (22,000 sq ft) m² of gallery space displaying the L. S. Lowry and other collections. The Lowry collection includes about 400 works in oil, pastel and watercolours from all periods of his career. It was collected by Salford Museum and Art Gallery from the 1930s.
The Artworks Creativity Gallery, designed and implemented by architects Reich-Petch (responsible for developing the National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C.), uses multimedia to encourage visitor participation and interaction with exhibits to transform gallery space.
Between October 2011 and January 2012 the gallery hosted an exhibition of about 100 works by Lowry's teacher, Pierre Adolphe Valette, including paintings of Manchester from Manchester Art Gallery and loans from private owners.
An Archive Room houses material related to the artist including books, catalogues of his exhibitions and auctions, press cuttings, tapes of interviews with Lowry and others, photographs and ephemera. The archive is open by appointment.
At the core of the complex are two theatres and a drama studio. The Lyric Theatre has 1,730 seats while the Quays has 466. The theatres host touring plays, comedy and musical events and Opera North. The Lyric Theatre has the largest stage in the United Kingdom outside London's West End. It played host to the 2011 Royal Variety Performance.
The Daughter-in-Law by D. H. Lawrence, a play in Nottingham dialect, neither published nor performed in Lawrence's lifetime was revived at the Lyric Theatre in 2012. The Lowry was the venue for the grand final of the BBC quiz show Mastermind in 2003.
The Lyric Theatre has also housed the first and only televised recording of the radio show I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, which Humphrey Lyttelton chaired just 19 days before his death in April 2008. An edited version aired on BBC Four, and the full edition is available on DVD.