Manchester

On a (the) sunny day at the end of December, I walked around the northern part of central Manchester. My aim was to look at the old Daily Express Building and the CIS Tower, but other buildings intervened.

First, obviously, was Oxford Road station. The station was rebuilt in 1960, and its elevated position on the railway viaduct ruled out anything heavy – hence the laminated wood wimple and timber-shelled roof.

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Oxford Road station with a reflected Prudential Assurance building. Max Clendinning for British Rail 1958-60.

Then to the old Daily Express building on Great Ancoats Street.  Despite once living in Manchester, I had never seen it before and I immediately fell in love with the roof curves.

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Daily Express building, Owen Williams, 1939.

A mixture of opaque and vitrolite glass, with curtain walling. Futuristic or streamline moderne. Mancunians I’ve mentioned it to recall passing it and looking in at the print presses pounding away. It was interesting to compare it to the Fleet Street building I’d looked at closely last November:

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Daily Express Building, Fleet Street, London. Now Goldman Sachs (as is the old Daily Telegraph Building next door). Ellis & Clark, 1932

Further along the road, on my way to the CIS Tower, I spotted this derelict building from the mid-19th century.

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Then the CIS Tower itself, which I had no difficulty in spotting (although had I ever noticed it before?).

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CIS Tower, Gordon Tait & G S Hay, 1962

Yes, well . . . I don’t have any view on it except to admit it makes for a great outline. A shame that the original tiny mosaic tiles kept falling off, but photo-voltaic panels are a good (if incongruous) substitute. But then I turned the corner and realised how important this whole site is/was for the prestige, reputation and ambition of the Co-op as a whole.

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One Angel Square, head office of the Co-op Group, 3DReid, 2013

It doesn’t bode well for the Co-op that this building is known by its address rather than the title of “Co-op HQ” or something. Compare this to the “Daily Express Building” (now offices) or the “Hoover Building” in west London (now a Tesco), where the company’s presence still dominates the site. Instead of being a symbol of and named after a sustainable, ethical institution, this building is now owned by Deutsche Bank and the Co-op has ruined its former self. It’s disappointing and frustrating that ineptitude, hubris and a latterday Rector of Stiffkey have erased the likeliest alternative we had to unconfined capitalism.

Another thought was the name of the architect. Is it an indication  – like the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart – that computers are as much the creators as humans? I’d like to think that someone made a balsa wood or papier-mâché model of this to sell the design, but I doubt it.

Over the road on Dantzic Street is another symbol of the Co-op’s long-standing vision: the Redfern Building.

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Redfern Building, W A Johnson & J W Cropper, 1936

I found it delightful and very Dutch in style, married to Art Deco. The beautiful curves bring Florin Court (same year) to mind. The very modest decoration is just perfect.

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Redfern Building decoration – presumably for the flagpole? Understated change of brick pattern.

I assume the 1930s building next to it is all part of Redfern House. Here, the horizontal brick detailing on the upper curved and angular bays again recall Florin Court.

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It’s only since noticing Dutch buildings that I’ve realised how elegant and modern simple brick detailing can be. Can brick be classy? This seems so to me:

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From here I caught sight of the new roof of Victoria station, which is very impressive and generous. I’ll have to take a snap of that another day.

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