£35m digital arts school to turn Manchester into creative powerhouse

SOURCE: Drew Graham/Unsplash
Tomorrow's leaders in the digital creative and tech sectors will have a new home in MMU's School of Digital Arts.

By U2B Staff 

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UK construction firm Kier has broken ground on Manchester Metropolitan University’s (MMU) new School of Digital Arts (SODA), a £35 million institute to support the region’s growing need for creative digital and tech talents.

Located adjacent to the Manchester School of Art in the Benzie Building on Higher Chatham Street, the 5,200 square metre building will be a teaching, learning and research hub providing state-of-the-art labs, workshop spaces and professional networks to nurture tomorrow’s filmmakers, animators and games designers.

“This hugely important project is a key part of Manchester Metropolitan University’s Estates Masterplan and we are thrilled to mark the commencement of work on-site,” said Kier Regional Building North West Managing Director Peter Commins in a media statement

“Throughout the build, we will be engaging with the city of Manchester workforce to create 10 apprenticeship opportunities and we will also be creating 100 local jobs on this project.

“Upon completion, this state-of-the-art facility will bring creative, digital, technology and business assets together to house a number of subjects under one roof.”


Designed by architecture firm FCBStudios, the building will feature a digital innovation and user experience (UX) lab, film studios, green screens, edit suites, sound, music and production studios as well as a screening room and gallery space.

These facilities will provide opportunities for more than 1,000 students a year to study various digital arts and multimedia disciplines such as animation, filmmaking, photography, UX and games design, AI and more. 

A flexible design means the building can adapt to new developments in technology.

A high-resolution LED light wall will cover the front exterior of the building, offering students opportunities to showcase their creative works to the passing public.

digital arts
The SODA building will foster the development of future leaders in the digital multimedia industry. Source: Jakob Owens/Unsplash.

“SODA combines Manchester Metropolitan’s excellence in the arts with our expertise in technology. The creative and digital industries are growing, here in Manchester, nationally and internationally, creating urgent demand for new skills and knowledge.

“SODA will prepare our students to be the next generation of creative talent, ready to succeed in these new roles,” said MMU Vice-Chancellor Malcolm Press. 


“It will give Manchester a unique centre, unmatched anywhere in the country in its scope and ambition. SODA will sit alongside our School of Art and Manchester Writing School, forming a world-class centre for creativity, working with industry to develop skills, nurture innovation and enhance economic success.”

SODA will include prominent figures in the arts and media sector in its industry advisory board to be chaired by Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle and multi BAFTA award-winning producer Nicola Shindler. 

The advisory board will help shape the school’s curriculum and research to meet current and future industry demands. 

SODA is jointly funded by the Manchester Metropolitan, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and GMLEP to establish Greater Manchester’s position as one of the world’s most competitive digital cities. 

Construction is scheduled to conclude in Spring 2021, in time for the building to open for the school’s September 2021 intake.