The CWS and CIS Buildings

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Manchester, CIS Tower, Miller Street

The Co-operative Wholesale Society and the Co-operative Insurance Society Buildings

The offices of the Co-operative Wholesale Society and the Co-operative Insurance Society on Miller Street are landmark buildings in Manchester for their date. The complex consists of a twenty-five-storey tower, a five storey lower part, and the fourteen storey NEW CENTURY HOUSE to Corporation Street, a curtain-walled slab. The CIS TOWER, the best of the Manchester 1960s office blocks, done with discipline and consistency and inspired by the achievements of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, in particular the Inland Steel Building in Chicago, which was amongst the buildings inspected by the design team on a fact-finding trip to America. The team were G.S. Hay of the CWS and Gordon Tait of Sir John Burnet, Tait & Partners, the date 1959-62. When the building was being planned the CIS General Manager set out three general aims. The building should add to the prestige of the Society and the Co-operative Movement, improve the appearance of the City of Manchester and provide first class accommodation for staff. The aims were fulfilled, and continue to be forty years on.

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Manchester, CIS Tower, Miller Street

First the CIS TOWER. Steel frame and a windowless service tower of reinforcedGlossary Term concreteGlossary Term clad with mosaic and rising to 400ft (xm). Glass, aluminium and black enamelled steel were chosen for the exterior instead of concreteGlossary Term or stone, which become dirty so quickly in Manchester's atmosphere, and this decision has paid off. It remains the tallest building in Manchester and one of the most distinguished. The details around the entrance from Miller Street are the only weakness. The entrance hall is excellent, the cool spaciousness only slightly marred by a new controlled entry system. The mural by William Mitchell, of bronzed fibreglassGlossary Term, fits perfectly with the optimistic 1960s ambience. Professor Misha Black and the Design Research Unit designed the interiors including the executive dining rooms in cherry veneer and the executive suite with teak veneer and vertical green glass strips.

NEW CENTURY HOUSE, is approached from an entrance forecourt from Corporation Street, with an abstract relief by John McCarthy on a screenGlossary Term wall at right angles. This should be enlivened by water, but the system has sadly fallen into disuse. The effect of the forecourt and entrance steps is spoiled by a crassly positioned bus shelter. Between the two buildings a conference hall for 1,000. Jonathan Green Associates and a CWS in-house team designed the interior and the figurative sculptured panels are by Stephen Sykes.



Composition of cement (calcined lime and clay), aggregate (small stones and rock chippings), sand and water. It can be poured into formwork or shuttering (temporary framing of timber or metal) on site (in-situ concrete) or pre-cast as components before construction. Reinforced: incorporating steel rods to take the tensile force. Pre-stressed: with tensioned steel rods. Finishes include the impression of boards left by formwork (board-marked or shuttered), and texturing with steel brushes (brushed or bush-hammered), picks or hammers (pick-hammered or hammer-dressed).


Synthetic resin reinforced with glass fibre; also called glass-reinforced polyester (GRP). GRC: glass-reinforced concrete.


Of concrete: incorporating steel rods to take the tensile force.


In a medieval church, usually set at the entry to the chancel. A parclose screen separates a chapel from the rest of the church. A rood screen was placed below a representation of the Crucifixion (called a rood).