The Manchester Letherium

A new kind of cultural institution in ManchesterThe Manchester Letherium Ideas competition (ML:IDEAS) is not what it seems. At first view, it has all the trappings of a traditional architectural ideas competition, complete with fact-filled website ( strict deadlines, saccharine messages from organisers, an international jury and a plethora of images and technical information for entrants. On further investigation, however, this competition ¬to design a new cultural building for Manchester becomes something altogether different: a conceptual artwork that uses a fictional architectural competition to investigate, in theoretical and practical terms, Manchester’s dynamic urban morphologies and mythologies.ML:IDEAS is a competition staged to address the sticky and perennial problem of artefact disposal from cultural institutions and, in the process, offer a critique of urban regeneration programmesIt’s not everyday an office wins a competition for a non¬existent building, sponsored by a non¬existent Corporation which has been created to venerate a non-existent institution.There are thousands of redundant artefacts sitting in the UK’s cultural institutions just waiting to be dispersed. Due to the Museums and Galleries Act, these objects usually have to be given to other registered cultural institutions but, of course, other institutions rarely want them, because they already have objects of their own they are trying to re-home. The solution? An institution whose entire raison d’etre would be to accept artefacts no one else wanted, a ‘culture composter’ museum.The 15 competition finalists are displayed as a Cornerhouse Projects exhibition throughout the Cornerhouse building, including the gallery foyer, café and bar areas. The winner, as chosen by the international jury of artists and architects will be announced at the launch of the project on 1 April 2005 at Cornerhouse.The project has been conceived by Rebecca Duclos and David Ross. Cornerhouse Projects is an ongoing series of exhibitions in and around the Cornerhouse building featuring new work by emerging artists based in the North West.