ProjectPrintworksLocationManchester, UKArchitectCDA ArchitectsInstallerADIAcousticianCUK Audio, Glasgow, ScotlandSubmitted byADI

As part of a £21 million refurbishment to transform Manchester’s Printworks leisure destination, large scale applications in AV and LED display hardware were central to the project.

The centrepiece of the scheme is a 1,000sqm LED ceiling, the largest of its kind in Europe. Comprising over 10,720,900 pixels and around 115 metres in length, it allows the ambience inside Printworks to continually transform to suit varying audiences and align with live events and brand activations.

It was custom designed, manufactured and installed by ADI, who worked together with Flipbook Studio to create a diverse variety of content to bring it to life. Vast in scale and visible above the venue’s streets and central Pump Yard, the ceiling has completely transformed the venue into an immersive environment that evolves from day to night.

The ceiling integrates with new audio and lighting design to maximise the content-driven experience for visitors. With huge 8K LED canvases, Green Hippo media servers were specified to drive the video, lighting and audio playout, while content scheduling/triggers are managed through Signagelive.

The digital ceiling is complimented by a giant LED gaming screen in the Pump Yard, Wayfinders, external DOOH displays and high-level signage, also from ADI. This creates a venue-wide platform to instantly change ambience, branding, advertising and offer live gamification. These impactful LED canvases enable owners DTZ Investors to drive revenue and footfall, while supporting tenants and visitor experience.

The digital transformation has put Printworks at the forefront of the UK’s leisure sector, bringing innovation and a best-in class entertainment destination on a scale never seen before in Europe.

Launched on 20th March 2024, the refurbished Printworks received over 65 pieces of national media coverage and had a potential audience reach of 949 million considering the huge social media reaction to the project.

Since launch, Printworks has enjoyed increased footfall, with an average 79% up-lift week on week, and 19% increase year on year. Alongside the launch of the first media campaign on the ceiling and a public gaming event, Printworks has become a hub for all ages and a visitor attraction in its own right.

The project was conceived five years ago, but the covid pandemic and its severe impact on the leisure sector stalled works until early 2022. When ADI were brought onboard, they faced technical hurdles; beyond the obvious challenge of installing a huge digital ceiling there was a high level of specification around the LED screen modules used.

Concerns around flammability of architectural materials in public venues meant the project required an LED product to meet strict fire performance standards. With no existing solution, ADI underwent a rigorous R&D process with prototype design and stringent fire testing to develop the world’s only LED module built to meet the BSEN 13501-1 classification.

This new MTF product – and its unique application – has brought innovation and new opportunities for leisure venues who would like to incorporate LED while retaining high safety standards.

An additional safety measure saw each LED module incorporate a galvinized steel tether to attach it onto the Unistrut frame, so that if the cam-lock fails the module won’t fall to the ground below.

Printworks remained open throughout the refurbishment, with multiple contractors working on the interior and exterior of the historic building over two-years. Unlike other projects where a short window of time is allocated for install, ADI had to deliver an extensive and phased installation programme working around other on-site construction.

The digital ceiling features three separate mega screens that are unusually shaped and at different heights to seamlessly integrate with the existing architecture. This unique project also meant ADI’s team had to work in a non-traditional way, installing screens directly above them rather than in front of them.

Printworks stayed open for the full duration of the refurb which posed challenges; while a crash-deck was used during the initial ceiling install phase and achievable during open hours, later work had to be completed while the building was closed overnight utilising plant access equipment.

Once the screens were commissioned, the process of content testing began. With over 100 pieces of content ready for launch, re-edits and re-renders were required to achieve seamless play-out across these bespoke 8K LED screens.

The Printworks project has created a landmark installation and delivers a truly innovative application of technology within a leisure venue. The scale and impact of the screens combined with audio, lighting and creative content has transformed this once gloomy environment into a vibrant, appealing destination that immerses visitors in ever-changing experiences.

ADI worked in partnership with animation studio Flipbook to produce a huge variety of content for the screens; from AI generative animations to emotive story-led video. Every piece is designed to bring the giant digital canvas to life and develop the venue into a must-see attraction.

Beyond the capabilities of the large LED gaming screen, interactive experiences will also be launched at Printworks in the coming months, with heat mapping cameras on the ceiling allowing visitors to influence and generate the content that appears.
The boost to visitor experience, amplification of live events and versatility over ambience have been huge achievements of the project, but it has also opened new commercial opportunities for the owner, DTZ Investors by creating a unique DOOH advertising canvas. Brand advertisers can also achieve a complete venue ‘take-over’ using the full platform of screens across the interior and exterior of the building, making it one of the most digitally advanced public venues in the country.

Ben Haller from DTZ Investors commented: “This transformation is without precedent and is a game changer for the UK leisure sector. We’ve created something unique at Printworks which will continue to entertain domestic and international visitors for years to come. This has only been possible due to the dedication and commitment from a large professional team, overcoming many challenges through the last five years from inception to delivery.

Up-lift in footfall over the initial month since launch is compounded by a hugely positive reaction across the trade press, consumer titles and social media channels. Most importantly the reaction from the public has been incredible, with an ever-increasing flow of visitors, tourists and shoppers to Printworks, who are mesmerised by the new technology-led environment and stop in their tracks to take photos and capture this ‘instaworthy’, unique venue.