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1 Angel Square

Submitted by on October 30, 2012 – 9:30 amNo Comment

The first into 1 Angel Square, which is going to be the new headquarters for the Co-operative Society. We managed to get ourselves on the first public tour of the Co-op’s flagship building. We joined the Bulgarian delegation that were being shown around 1 Angel Square and were privileged to hear the Co-op’s presentation not only in English but also in Bulgarian.

We met at the reception area at the base of the CIS Building and offered a cup of tea which is always a nice touch. We were whisked off to the top floor in a super-fast lift and shown into the exclusive executive board room. The great thing about being part of the co-operative movement is that you can seem all right-on and egalitarian, but at no point does the Co-operative Society talk of equality. It talks of co-operative ownership and responsible investment but that is as far as it goes. In the Co-operative Group some people are definitely more equal than others. The executive, wood-lined, original Lowry, multi-screened and six giant plasma screened meeting room, situated at the very top is testament to the Co-op’s commitment to the status quo. The Co-operative Group’s aims are, number one, to be commercially successful, they go on to say to share profits. They don’t say equally, and lots of companies share profits with their shareholders.

The CIS Building and New Century House, both brilliant examples of innovative design, are about to celebrate their 50th birthdays. The other wonderful buildings that make up the co-operative area around Miller Street and Corporation Street are also excellent. They show the longevity in their design of the Co-operative’s life in Manchester. My favourites are the 1930s buildings and the CWS Tobacco Factory building. Some of these buildings will be abandoned when the Co-op inhabits its new 15-storey home.

1 Angel Square is an impressive building. I’ve been watching it being built with interest over the past year or so. Watching as the Co-op closes off more and more streets and cut-throughs. Their corporate vision of NOMA 53 is to intensively build on 22 acres of land. The doughnut-shaped building is claimed to have the latest and most highly developed environmentally friendly gizmos. They are going to save up to 40-60% of their current energy costs. So we can all look out for cheaper insurance, carrots and funerals.

One of their energy-saving features is super-efficient lifts. The lifts have no buttons. I’m assuming this saves energy because you get in, can’t press a button to get to the floor you work on and have to use the stairs. Good plan. ‘The building will have its own source of sustainable heat and power generation using biofuel and waste cooking oil through a combined heat and power plant’.  When you have finished cooking your chips take the fat down to the Co-op, they’ll use it to heat up their new building.

We were told that the new building will be better for the workforce because they will be more efficient and flexible through better use of space. Workers won’t have their own desk, all personal belongings will have to go in a locker, you will have to use whatever desk is available. The dehumanisation of the workplace continues through the disguise of ‘sustainability’.

I did like the atrium, its expansion of sandy colour tiles and white walls, it was light and you could feel a light breeze on your cheeks. The repetitious rectangular balconies offset by the curvaceous and shrinking contrasting balconies, all covered by a glass roof.

I loved the building but any guide who says that Engels was a great publicist has missed the point and I fear that will be the conclusion of history on the Co-operative group. 

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