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Co-Operative Insurance Society (Cis) Building

A Grade II Listed Building in Ancoats and Clayton, Manchester

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Latitude: 53.4865 / 53°29'11"N

Longitude: -2.2384 / 2°14'18"W

OS Eastings: 384275

OS Northings: 398891

OS Grid: SJ842988

Mapcode National: GBR DKF.Z5

Mapcode Global: WHB9G.LM9J

Plus Code: 9C5VFQP6+JJ

Entry Name: Co-Operative Insurance Society (Cis) Building

Listing Date: 24 November 1995

Last Amended: 26 April 2013

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1270494

English Heritage Legacy ID: 458645

Location: Piccadilly, Manchester, M60

County: Manchester

Electoral Ward/Division: Ancoats and Clayton

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Manchester

Traditional County: Lancashire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater Manchester

Church of England Parish: Manchester Cathedral

Church of England Diocese: Manchester

Tagged with: Skyscraper

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Office building, 1959-62, by G.S. Hay, chief architect of the Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS) with Gordon Tait of Sir John Burnet, Tait and Partners.


PLAN & MATERIALS: the CIS Building consists of a 26-storey tower with a steel frame construction and an adjacent 28-storey service tower and 5-storey podium block constructed of reinforced concrete. Both the tower and podium block have glass curtain-walling incorporating black vitreous enamelled-steel panels between the floor levels and anodised aluminium mullions. All the windows and glazing are covered with shatterproof film. The service tower is clad with grey vitreous mosaic, which has been overlaid with photovoltaic panels, which are not of special interest.

The building is located on a large plot bounded by Miller Street to the north-east front, Dantzic Street to the north-west side, Hanover Street to the south-west rear and a large car park to the south-east side. It has a symmetrical plan with the main tower rising up from the north-eastern end of the podium block and projecting at the front over the first two floors and the main entrance. The service tower is attached to the centre of the main tower's south-west side, forming a squat T-shape.

EXTERIOR: in the construction of the CIS Building glass, aluminium and black vitreous enamel were chosen for the exterior instead of concrete or stone due to Manchester's polluted atmosphere at that time. The 400ft high blank service tower is clad with 14 million grey-coloured Italian mosaic tiles, which began to fail shortly after the building's construction, and in 2005 the mosaic was over-clad with photovoltaic panels, which are not considered to be of special interest. The service tower incorporates two deep bands of vents, and attached to the top of each face are large, later signage letters spelling 'CIS' with further smaller lettering below reading 'Co-operative Insurance'. Occupying most of the roof of the podium block is a large plant room. The main entrance is set to the north-east side of the main tower and is canopied by the tower itself, which is supported by six columns. A further short, flat-roofed canopy is attached in front and the glazed entrance has replaced revolving and swing doors.

INTERIOR: internally the building uses modular planning and was designed to be as open plan as possible, with limited partitioning to the lower floors, which has since been removed or replaced with modern partitioning. In contrast, the executive floor levels were partitioned from the outset. The building was one of the first large commercial buildings in England to be air-conditioned, utilising the same system as the Empire State Building in New York. The system was installed by US engineers and although it has been updated in later decades, it survives in situ.

The open-plan interior is enabled by the core services, including passenger and goods lifts, stairs, toilets and ventilation ducts, being placed in the service tower. The lifts serve both the main tower and podium block, whilst the podium block is also served by escalators, which have been replaced in later years, but retain their original banded ceiling lighting. A Telelift document conveyor is also located in the service tower, which replaced the original Westinghouse American system. The building's dog-leg stairs have simple metal balustrades.

Original suspended ceilings have largely been replaced within the building, including in the main-entrance hall, and the majority of the original furnishings (many of which were made by the CWS) and partitions have been removed, although some built-in units survive on the executive levels. Original inter-changeable interior signage by DRU has also been removed, along with the majority of the original lighting.

The large main-entrance hall has a Cornish granite floor and walls clad with white Sicilian marble. Columns within the hall were originally clad in black metal, but this has since been replaced with marble to match the walls. The escalators are located off to the rear left of the entrance hall and the lifts off to the centre rear; both are now accessed via modern security turnstiles and gates. The hall's rear wall to the right of the security turnstiles has a 30ftx12ft abstract sculptured fibreglass mural by William G. Mitchell, which is cast against a polystyrene mould with a bronze patinated finish and has been splashed with ammonia to create green-coloured highlights to some of the mural's features. The rest of the ground floor incorporates a board members' garage and used to contain a branch office, which has since been subdivided and converted for other uses, and, as a result this part of the interior is not of special interest.

On the top floor of the podium block is a large recreation room, which is now used as office space, but originally had a variety of uses, including as a ballroom, conference hall and cinema. It retains its original sprung dance floor, which is hidden under a later covering, and has walls clad in elm and a replaced ceiling. A massive, brightly-coloured plastic laminate mural by Barry Daniels of DANAD Design Associates exists to the rear (south-west) wall and a small stage was originally located in front. An original glazed folding screen separates the room from a bar lounge area with a tinted mirrored ceiling and a replaced bar.

The main tower's 23rd and 24th floors constitute the executive levels; the 23rd floor contains open reception areas and partitioned rooms, including a board room, committee rooms and executive suite with white formica and teak-veneer panelled walls incorporating vertical, blue-green coloured, roughcast-glass strips adjacent to original doors, which act as side lights. The 24th floor, which originally formed the executive dining rooms, has cherry-veneer wall panelling and original folding screens that can be opened to create a single space for functions.

The 25th floor was originally known as the observation floor and was an open-plan space used for viewing the city and relaxing. It originally contained afrormosia bench seating, planters and a greenhouse, but these have all since been removed and it is now used as office space. The upper parts of the walls incorporate a series of horizontal viewing windows and the space is lit by two very large, pyramidal skylights located at each end; the original glass ceilings underneath have been removed.

The building has three basement levels, one of which provides tunnel access through to the nearby New Century House. A large cafeteria and kitchens are located in the uppermost basement level; these have been extensively altered and their interiors are not of special interest, with the cafeteria's original wall cladding, mosaic cladding to the columns, and original metal-louvred ceiling all having been removed. The sub-basement levels are of lesser interest and contain plant and control rooms, storage space and a space intended for use as an air-raid shelter; the original control rooms survive and contain original control panels.


The Co-operative Insurance Society (CIS) Building was constructed in 1959-62 to the designs of George S. Hay, Chief Architect to the Co-operative Wholesale Society Ltd (CWS) with Gordon Thomas Tait of Sir John Burnet, Tait and Partners. It was built as the headquarters of the Co-operative Insurance Society and was designed to accommodate 2500 staff in a single consolidated site, instead of the ten CIS offices previously scattered around Manchester. A site on Miller Street that had been heavily bombed during WWII, and subsequently cleared, was chosen for the new Headquarters building. As part of the project another neighbouring plot fronting Miller Street and Corporation Street was to become New Century House, the Headquarters of the Co-operative Wholesale Society Ltd (CWS), which was designed by the same architects and is listed separately at Grade II. The main contractors for the CIS Building were John Laing Construction Ltd, with A.E. Beer as the structural engineering consultant, and O. Castick, Chief Engineer of CWS as the engineering services consultant. The building was completed at a cost of nearly £4 million and was opened on 22 October 1962 by the Duke of Edinburgh.

The design brief for the new building, devised by the CIS General Manager, Robert Dinnage, was threefold: the building should add to the prestige of the Society and the Co-operative Movement; it should improve the appearance of Manchester in which the Society was one of the largest financial organisations; and it should provide first-class accommodation for the staff. Prior to the design of the building Dinnage, the architects, and engineers went on a fact-finding trip to Canada and the United States; the biggest inspiration during their trip being the work of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and, in particular, their Inland Steel Building in Chicago (1956-8, designated as a Chicago Landmark in 1998 and a National Historic Landmark in 2009). A later trip to Sweden also introduced the idea of incorporating artwork into the design of the CIS Building, and also the neighbouring New Century House. The CIS Building was praised by the architectural press on its completion and was awarded the RIBA Bronze Medal in 1962.

The interior, including furnishings, was designed by Professor Misha Black and Alexander Gibson of the Design Research Unit (DRU). The DRU was founded in 1942 by the poet and art critic Herbert Read, the advertising executive Marcus Brumwell, the architect Misha Black, and the graphic designer Milner Gray. During the post-war period the DRU was one of the most significant design practices in Europe, developing the idea of corporate identity, with work including the British Rail logo (1965), the street signs within central London, and branding for the chemical giant ICI and the Watney Mann brewery amongst others. (Sir) Misha Black (1910-1977) was also closely involved in the 1951 Festival of Britain exhibition, as the architect and designer of several areas, including the Dome of Discovery, the Regatta restaurant and the Bailey Bridge, and he also co-designed the interior of the Grade II listed office block at 153-157 New Bond Street, City of Westminster (1952-3) with Hugh Casson.

Sir John Burnet, Tait and Partners, later known simply as Burnet, Tait and Partners, was the early-C20 successor to a series of architectural partnerships first established by John Burnet senior in Glasgow in 1835. Gordon T. Tait took over the running of the practice, which had moved to London in the late-C19, from his father, T.S. Tait after WWII and expanded it with the introduction of new partners, specialising in corporate headquarters, schools and housing. Gordon T. Tait's buildings include the Grade II listed Bird's Eye Headquarters, Walton-on-Thames (1961-2). The practice also designed the winning entry for a competition for offices for English Electric in London in 1955, which was widely acclaimed though never built. As Chief Architect for the CWS George S. Hay also designed the Grade II listed Castle House Co-operative store in Sheffield (1964), and was a key figure in one of the earliest salaried in-house architects' departments in the country.

Reasons for Listing

The Co-operative Insurance Society (CIS) Building is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: it has a strikingly elegant and sophisticated design inspired by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill's Inland Steel Building in Chicago (1956-8), which together with its imposing scale and massing, is highly successful in conveying, as originally intended, the status and prestige of the CIS and the wider Co-operative movement, and the strength of the financial community within Manchester;

* Design interest: the CIS Building employs state of the art construction techniques and features for its date; for instance, it was one of the first large commercial buildings in England to be air-conditioned. Other key design features include its use of carefully selected external materials, such as glass curtain walling with black vitreous enamelled-steel panels and anodised aluminium mullions, which were specifically chosen to withstand air pollution;

* Architect: it was designed by Gordon T. Tait of Sir John Burnet, Tait & Partners, along with George S. Hay of the CWS; both of whom are notable architects with listed buildings to their name;

* Interior interest: the interior was designed by Professor Misha Black and Alexander Gibson of the Design Research Unit (DRU), one of the most significant post-war design practices in Europe, and despite some later alteration many original features survive, particularly on the two executive level floors, which display the use of high quality materials, such as teak and cherry veneer panelling and doors with blue-green coloured, roughcast-glass vertical side lights;

* Artistic interest: the interior is enhanced by artwork designed and carried out by notable mid-C20 artists, including a massive, brightly-coloured plastic laminate mural in the former recreation room by Barry Daniels of DANAD Design Associates, and a striking 30ftx12ft abstract sculptured fibreglass mural by the renowned artist and sculptor, William G. Mitchell that dominates the entrance hall;

* Group value: the CIS Building forms an important group with the neighbouring Grade II listed New Century House and its attached conference hall on Corporation Street; the buildings being designed by the same architects and built as a single scheme for the Co-operative group. Together the buildings share a strong visual, contextual and stylistic relationship with one another and form impressive skyline features within Manchester city centre.

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