Category: The CO-OP

After being stalled by the recession and, possibly, because of the mismanagement of the banking sector of the Co-Op, the NOMA development around their incredible new HQ on Angel Meadows and their iconic 1960s CIS tower is stirring again. The older, Edwardian Baroque buildings fronting Corporation Street and the streets off it are being restored and repurposed while we are waiting for a classy new apartment tower  as tall as the CIS (tennis courts on the roof…don’t apply to be a ball boy) and new office blocks on the other side of Miller Street.


Linking all these developments NOMA is improving the public realm and creating new spaces like Sadler’s Yard. What I like about it is the attention to detail they have gone to with the NOMA logo and the names of the streets inlaid into the curb stones. When it’s all finished this is going to be, once again, a very classy part of town.





I was out looking for more pictures for the Manchester Curious Twitter Hour in a few days time. I headed down to the NOMA campus where they have created a new square, Sadler’s Yard. It’s named after James Sadler who was the first person from Manchester, or indeed, England, to fly when he used a balloon to get a bird’s eye view of the town in 1785. He took off from a site in nearby Balloon Street.


The new square has shown off, to better effect, the buildings that surround it. They tore down an undistinguished, low rise 60s building to create the space and it works well. It’s a bit quiet at the moment as the cafes and restaurants haven’t moved in yet. The square proves the point that the spaces between buildings are as important as the buildings themselves. 

This is the entrance to Holyoake House, one of the buildings that you can now see properly. I’ll use it in the Twitter hour.


It’s one of Manchester’s tiled building, being covered by cream and green tiles, designed to resist pollution. It has all kinds of classical decorations. It used to be overlooked but it’s a lovely little building that’s now more in the city’s consciousness. It’s not one of the city’s great architectural statements but it is a pleasure to come across as you wander about.




It’s named after George Jacob Holyoake, one of the pioneers of the Co Op movement which has its HQ in the city. For those not familiar with the Co Op movement, it started in the 19th century. At that time poor people in the industrial cities of the north didn’t have access to good food. Some people, called the pioneers, in Rochdale to the north of the city centre, got together to buy good food in bulk to sell at a cheaper price to people of limited means. Everyone who bought the food was a member of the Co Op. Profits from the business were distributed among the members. They added a range of services to the business from banking to funeral services. It has been very successful as a business and moved from Rochdale to Manchester. At one point it was the largest food retailer across the north of England but allowed the big supermarkets to muscle in. And there were a few bad banking mistakes a few years ago. And the infamous CEO/Methodist minister who was into interesting substances and was a little over friendly with young men. Sometimes he combined both interests. It was a bit of a wake up call for the Co Op and they have gone back to their roots and have sailed into calmer waters of late.


On either side of  Holyoake House are two brick built Art Deco buildings with nice Art Deco curves. They are both Co Op buildings built in the 1930s. This one is Redfern House…





And this one is Dantzic House. All three of these buildings are going to be refurbished and all three look all the better for finding themselves on this new square. It was sunny the day that I took these pictures but the sky is a bit grey in these ones. As I left the square it started to snow. It must have lasted about 90 seconds. Maybe that was winter this year? 



I’ve not posted much over the last few days in spite of being off work. We are in the lull between Christmas and New Year and I tend to fall into lethargy and days pass and nothing much is achieved except a little dent in the chocolate mountain and we manage to recycle another couple of the wine bottles that have been cluttering the kitchen. (We have to empty them first of course.)

Before Christmas I walked up to the Co Op’s new HQ in Manchester. They have finished, I think, the landscaping outside the building. It looks a bit thin at the moment but it’s only just gone in and it is December so it won’t be filling out for a few months now.

It reminded me of the planting at Media City and that’s come really good. I like all the interlacing paths and the benches where people can sit out in summer. They have used lots of different paving stones including some that look like the old sandstone flagstones that used to line the pavements across the city. I wonder if they found them when they did the archaeological work on the site before the building was built. The building was built on the site of one of the most infamous slums in the city, ironically named Angel Meadows. The official address of the building is 1 Angel Square. I guess these pictures are of Angel Square then. The landscaping has softened the appearance of these sculptural chimney things that are part of the eco-friendly heating, air-conditioning system for the building. The building will be i full use by Easter I believe. They are tweaking and  sorting out little glitches on the interior.

They have also closed part of the inner ring road between this building and the CIS Tower. part of the traffic now goes round the back of the new buildings on the controversial new road. It’s made Miller Street very quiet compared to the usual thunder of traffic that you get her. I crossed it with trepidation, fully expecting to be mown down. We will get used to it I suppose.







Here are some pictures of the finished building. I think this one must have been taken from the top of the CIS Tower across the road from this building.

Co 1

This one is from some where in Angel Meadows I think. You can see the new building on the left, The CIS Tower in the centre and the smaller building to the right is New Century House. It’s part of the the CIS Tower complex and is going to be renovated as part of the NOMA development that will transform this part of the city. It’s built in the same style as it’s more famous, taller neighbour. Chances are that NOMA will happen with the Co Op behind it. And Manchester has been one of the bright parts of the UK economy that seems to be growing while less fortunate places are shrinking. There is a shortage of good office space in the city and companies queueing to get in.


I haven’t seen the building at night but I’m told it looks stunning lit up. Here’s a picture that gives you some idea of what it looks like. There have been comments that, lit like this, the building does look a bit rude from this angle.

Co 3

I went to check on the Co-Op’s new HQ building on Angel Square. It was due to be occupied this October. They have decided to put off the occupation until after Christmas. One reason is it will be occupied, partially, by the retail arm of the business that runs the supermarkets and convenience stores across the country. Moving the HQ, with attendant teething troubles, wouldn’t be good in the busy run up to Christmas. 

Another reason is the complexity of the building. It’s at the cutting edge of architectural innovation, being the largest ‘green’ building project in Europe. It has been designed to have a zero carbon footprint when it is up and running. It even has its own power station. It has an immensely complicated computer system to be installed and these things have delayed occupation. Hopefully, it will be open for business early in 2013.

It was a hive of activity when I went past. They were busy laying out Angel Square with its pathways and plantings. They seem to be going for the same kind of look as the plaza at Media City which has proved very popular and would be a good idea to use in Piccadilly Gardens I think.

The strange tubes that confused me on my last visit have turned out to be partly sculpture and also have a purpose. They will suck fresh air into the building that will keep the building cool in Summer and pleasant to work in. Quite how that works I’m not sure. I love Manchester but this building is in the heart of one of the biggest cities in Europe and the air ain’t that fresh! Maybe they are extending the tubes out to the Lake district or something?

The building does look great. I’ve not seen it all lit up but am told it kind of glows. And all the energy that is used to power the building is created using green technology as befits this ethical company. I hope when they open, we, the ordinary people of the city, get a chance to look inside. If they do I will be in there with my camera.

Just a corner of the Co-Op HQ. In the distance you can see some of the towers of the Green Quarter, a partially residential, office and hotel development. You can also see the controversial road that has been built round the development. It has been designed to take some of the traffic off the busy Inner Ring Road that runs through the land that the Co Op is developing. This will be good for the office workers there, but bad for the occupants of the apartment blocks who bought in a quiet part of the city only to find one of the busiest routes in the city re-routed past their homes…

The Co Op’s new headquarters building on Angel Meadows, now named No 1 Angel Square, is rapidly approaching completion. The building itself is finished and, I believe, the interior is being fitted out. I seem to remember a date of October 2012 being bandied about as a opening date. I’m not sure if they are going to make that. The area around the building is still work in process and I can’t see the men in their Armani suits and the women in their Chanel and Manolos picking their way through the mud and rubble to get to their offices. We shall see.

I’m intrigued by these constructions that have appeared on what will be the piazza in front of the building. Are they works of art or do they serve a useful purpose? Both? Ventilation of some underground structure? Anyone know?

I do like the look of this building. I want to see what it looks like in use and think it will look wonderful in the evening when it’s all lit up. It will be interesting to see if it gets any awards for design. It’s certainly become a landmark building in Manchester already.


I was particularly pleased with this picture I took of two of Manchester’s iconic modern buildings. I’m on Corporation Street and on the right of the picture is the URBIS Building, now the home of the National Football Museum relocated from Preston.  In the few weeks it has been open in Manchester it has had more visitors than it had in Preston in an entire year. It seems to have been a successful move. The copper finger extension of the roof points along Corporation Street and Cross Street towards one of Manchester’s other modern architectural icons, the Hilton Tower at the other end of Deansgate about a mile away. Both of the buildings were were designed by Manchester architect, Ian Simpson, who has done a lot to develop BRAND MANCHESTER in the last couple of decades.

The untidy building to the right covered in scaffolding and advertising is City Buildings which the Co-Op is turing into the Hotel Indigo. You also get a corner of the Corn Exchange,  a slither of Selfridge’s/Marks and Spencer’s, The Royal Exchange Theatre and the sloping roof of the Great Northern Tower.

I’m quite pleased with the picture but can’t work out if the untidy lights and buses add to the picture or detract from it. But it’s the best I can do with my little point and press camera.

I was mooching about on the Internet this morning and I found these wonderful pictures of the new Co-Op retail HQ going up on Angel Meadows. The guys who took them must have far better cameras than my little point and press and must have a better eye for a good picture. I also discovered that the plaza in front of the building may be called Angel Square as a nod to the history of the area. I like that idea. All these pictures will benefit from being clicked on to see the details.

This first one was taken early one evening.  We are on top of a building looking along Great Ancoats Street, you can see the rush hour traffic on the street below. The Norther Quarter is to the left of the street and the upwardly mobile suburb of Ancoats is on the right. In the distance you can see the CIS Tower and the new HQ building all lit up and looking as if it’s occupied. I like the colour in the sky. It’s kind of reflecting the lights of the city. The black glass curvy building, bottom and centre, is the art deco former Daily Express newspaper building.

This one must have been taken from somewhere in the Northern Quarter. You can see the CIS Tower and the new building. I like that the photographer has waited until all the cranes have been aligned the same way.

This one has been taken from the little park I discovered in Angel Meadows. I like the blue of the sky and the contrast between the natural and the man made in this picture.

The sky in this one is extraordinary. Both buildings totally dominate the little buildings around them but the sky overwhelms the two iconic buildings. I love the turbulent clouds in the sky darkening as they get further up. It may have been doctored a bit but, living in Manchester, I recognise this sky. We are in for some of our famous rain!

The first of these neat ones is of the interior of the building as it is now shrouded with scaffolding. There will be an atrium which will go from ground level to the roof and will be flooded with natural light. Trees will be planted at ground level. Which will be a shame because, apparently, the space on the floor is big enough to park an A380 Super-Jumbo and still have room left around it. I would like to see them try that!

The second picture is of what it should look like when it’s all finished and people have moved in, hopefully in the autumn of 2012.


A couple of posts back I made reference to an archaeologist that I met as I wandered about the city. I’d gone round the back of the Co-Op building site to see if I could get some good pictures and I found a little archaeology site with this guy doing some digging. We fell into conversation. It was an interesting and illuminating one.

The Co-Op is being built in a part of the city called Angel meadows. In spite of its inviting name it was one of the worst slums in the city. It was so bad that it influenced Marx and Engles. Marx went on to publish a  book called ‘Das Kapital’ which influenced the birth of Communism. Their wanderings through Angel Meadows on the way to the reading room at Chetham’s Library and seeing the conditions the people had to live in here was a big influence. But more about them later.

In the pictures you can see the remains of a house that the archaeologist was working in. I thought I was looking at an outside space but the flag stones were the floor of this building. Their were 4 rooms in this house, two downstairs and two up. there was no running water and no toilet facilities. Bathroom? Don’t make me laugh! Each room would hold one family which, because there was no contraception of any real use in those days, could consist of a mother, a father and around 12 children. All this in a space not as big and my bedroom. So you could have 50+ people living in cramped, filthy conditions. Between the houses were passage ways so narrow (you can see one in the pictures) that 2 people could pass one another only if they did it side ways. Water would come from a common stand pipe and would have been of dubious quality. Cholera outbreaks were frequent. There would have been a communal ‘privy’ which several houses would share. Do the maths. that would mean 100s of people using one facility. they were so filthy that many people would have made their own arrangements, usually throwing human waste out into the street. There was no refuse collection but they did keep pigs that scavenged among the rubbish. When they were big enough they would be slaughtered. Chickens were kept as well. Then there was the crime. all manner of wickedness went on here and the police went there at their peril. usually they went in threes. All this was going on less than 10 minutes walk from St Ann’s Square and King Street, then a prosperous, middle class area of grand houses.

Back to Marx and Engles who were supposed to have walked through the area on their way to Chetham’s. the archaeologist doubted this would have happened as they were nice, middle class students at the time and they wouldn’t have lasted 5 minutes on a wander through this foul area. However, Engles has a ‘professional’, mutually beneficial relationship with one of the local ladies of ill repute and it was she who dressed him up and escorted him through the area so he could witness the conditions. it seems that Engles was very concerned about the state of the working man and wanted their lots improved but he wasn’t above exploiting one of them for his own ends! It was quite common for Victorian gentlemen to do this I believe.

The archaeologist was good to chat to and I learned a lot. If anyone wants to see the site you will have to move fast. Manchester has this kind of site all over the city centre. It’s not particularly uncommon. So unless he find an intact Roman villa with wonderful mosaics or the like, this site is going to disappear, very soon, under the rerouted inner ring road, designed to calm the traffic through the C0-Op’s prestigious NOMA development.

Iwonder what the people who live, or existed, in Angel Meadows would think if they couls see what is being built on top of their former homes?

I’ve not been near the Co-Op HQ building for a while. It’s really come on. The outer skin of the ‘double glazing’ is racing up the sides of the building and giving it a very distinctive shape. Double glazing is something you have installed in suburban houses to keep your house warm and the term doesn’t really do what they are installing here justice. I like that people will be able to walk between the double glazing panels. Try that is your suburban semi! There’s probably a technical term for double glazing on this scale, but not being an architect or engineer, I have no idea what it is.

They have also started glazing the ‘roof’ for want of a better word to describe the slanting frontage of the building. Once the building is finished and the roof terraces are landscaped and the trees are installed in the foyer of the building, this place will look stunning. I predict prizes for this building. It’s going to be a great addition to the Manchester’s town-scape.

Click on ‘The Co-Op’ to see how the building has developed.

On the other side of the city centre from the Student Castle, the Co-Op HQ is developing. If all goes well it will be finished at the same time as the tower in Autumn 2012. The inner glazing on the C0-Op is rising higher up the building. I guess inside they are now fitting out the lower floors with services like water and electricity. One of the features of the building was going to be the double glazed glass specially designed to keep the building cool in summer and warm in winter in such a way that the building is carbon neutral. I thought that they had already fitted the double glazing but they hadn’t. I was amazed to see a second skin of glazing being installed outside the first one. You can see it at the bottom of the building. This glazing will give the building its unusual and distinctive shape and the gap will be so wide between the two layers that people will be able to walk between the two layers on broad walkways around the building. The roof will be a series of gardens where the staff can relax in their breaks and at lunchtimes. The glass in the outer layer is a special one that keeps out excess heat in summer but traps it in winter to keep the building warm. It’s intelligent and very expensive. It’s developing into a very exciting building. I can see it winning all kinds of awards when it’s finished like the Civil justice Centre in Spinningfields.

Click on ‘The Co-Op’ tab to see how the building has grown.