I came across these wonderful pictures from Manchester’s last protracted building frenzy in the 1960s. The economy was booming and Manchester was anxious to build on some of the bomb sites that still disfigured the city centre after World War II. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, the boom didn’t last. Unfortunately, Manchester was about to lose a lot of its old industries and was about to go into a decline that it took until the 90s to recover. Fortunately, it meant that a lot of our Victorian heritage wasn’t swept away to be replaced by the brutalist architecture fashionable at that time.

But some buildings did make it and we’ve grown quite fond of one or two of them. Top of the list is the CIS Tower built for the banking and insurance arm of the Co-Op. It opened in 1962, making it 56 years old this year. With its new solar panels on the service tower, providing power for the tower and the surrounding buildings, it still looks good. It was the tallest building in Manchester until 2006 when it was overtaken by the Hilton Tower. The present building boom is going to see it fall even further down the list. It was, arguably, the tallest building in the UK and Europe at one point. It’s still the tallest office building in the country outside of London. It was designed to look like one of the towers being put in New York City at the time. It’s Manchester’s little bit of mid-twentieth century Manhattan. Here are some pictures of it nearing completion.

But the pictures that really impressed me were these of some of the construction workers having a tea break, reading the paper, high on one of the tower’s girders. No helmets, no safety clothing, there doesn’t seem to be any kind of rope to tie them to the building in case of a fall. In the second picture some of the guys seem to be climbing along the boom of one of the cranes with no regard to the drop to the ground below. Beyond them you can see the industrial, inner suburbs of Manchester, all about to be swept away.

The Manchester pictures reminded me of the iconic picture of the New York construction workers having lunch on a girder high above a building in the Rockefeller Centre, thirty years before the Manchester ones, in 1932.

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