Daily Express Building, Manchester

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Daily Express Building
Express Building
Express Building Manchester.jpg
Front façade visible from Great Ancoats Street
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General information
TypeOffice and residential
Architectural style Futurist Art Deco
Streamline Moderne
Location Great Ancoats Street
Country England, UK
Coordinates 53°29′06″N2°13′53″W / 53.4849°N 2.2313°W / 53.4849; -2.2313 Coordinates: 53°29′06″N2°13′53″W / 53.4849°N 2.2313°W / 53.4849; -2.2313
Construction started1936
Completed1939 [1]
Renovated1960 (Extension) [2]
1979(Two-storey extension) [2]
1983 [2]
1993-95(Office conversion) [2]
Diameter75,600 square feet (7,020 m2)
Technical details
Structural systemSteel and glass (curtain wall)
Floor countSix-storeys
Design and construction
ArchitectSir Owen Williams
Civil engineerSir Owen Williams

The Daily Express Building, located on Great Ancoats Street, Manchester, England, is a Grade I* listed building which was designed by engineer, Sir Owen Williams. It was built in 1939 to house one of three Daily Express offices; the other two similar buildings are located in London and Glasgow.

Manchester City and metropolitan borough in England

Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England, with a population of 545,500 as of 2017. It lies within the United Kingdom's second-most populous built-up area, with a population of 3.2 million. It is fringed by the Cheshire Plain to the south, the Pennines to the north and east, and an arc of towns with which it forms a continuous conurbation. The local authority is Manchester City Council.

Listed building Collection of protected architectural creations in the United Kingdom

A listed building, or listed structure, is one that has been placed on one of the four statutory lists maintained by Historic England in England, Historic Environment Scotland in Scotland, Cadw in Wales, and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency in Northern Ireland.

Owen Williams (engineer) British engineer and architect

Sir Evan Owen Williams was an English engineer and architect, known for being the principal engineer for Gravelly Hill Interchange as well as a number of key modernist buildings, including the Express Building in Manchester and Boots D10 Building in Nottingham.


The pre-World War II building is notable for its timeless, "space-age" [3] quality and is often mistaken for being much younger than it is due to its futuristic avant garde appearance. [4] The building is futurist art deco, specifically streamline moderne with its horizontal lines and curved corners. It is clad in a combination of opaque and vitrolite glass. It was considered highly radical at the time and incorporated a growing technology, curtain walling. [5]

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Streamline Moderne late type of the Art Deco architecture and design

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park|

Opacity is the measure of impenetrability to electromagnetic or other kinds of radiation, especially visible light. In radiative transfer, it describes the absorption and scattering of radiation in a medium, such as a plasma, dielectric, shielding material, glass, etc. An opaque object is neither transparent nor translucent. When light strikes an interface between two substances, in general some may be reflected, some absorbed, some scattered, and the rest transmitted. Reflection can be diffuse, for example light reflecting off a white wall, or specular, for example light reflecting off a mirror. An opaque substance transmits no light, and therefore reflects, scatters, or absorbs all of it. Both mirrors and carbon black are opaque. Opacity depends on the frequency of the light being considered. For instance, some kinds of glass, while transparent in the visual range, are largely opaque to ultraviolet light. More extreme frequency-dependence is visible in the absorption lines of cold gases. Opacity can be quantified in many ways; for example, see the article mathematical descriptions of opacity.

Unlike the London and Glasgow Express buildings, the Manchester building was designed by the engineer for all three buildings, Sir Owen Williams. [6] It is considered the best of the three Express Buildings, [7] [8] and is admired by architects such as Norman Foster [9] and Mancunians alike. [10] [11] The building was Grade II* listed in 1974, just thirty-five years after its initial construction, and remains Greater Manchester's youngest II* listed building. [12]

Daily Express Building, London

The Daily Express Building is a Grade II* listed building located in Fleet Street in the City of London. It was designed in 1932 by Ellis and Clark to serve as the home of the Daily Express newspaper and is one of the most prominent examples of art-deco / Streamline Moderne architecture in London.

Grade II* listed buildings in Greater Manchester Wikimedia list article

There are 236 Grade II* listed buildings in Greater Manchester, England. In the United Kingdom, the term listed building refers to a building or other structure officially designated as being of special architectural, historical or cultural significance; Grade II* structures are those considered to be "particularly significant buildings of more than local interest". In England, the authority for listing under the Planning Act 1990 rests with English Heritage, a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Greater Manchester County of England

Greater Manchester is a metropolitan county in North West England, with a population of 2.8 million. It encompasses one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United Kingdom and comprises ten metropolitan boroughs: Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan, and the cities of Manchester and Salford. Greater Manchester was created on 1 April 1974 as a result of the Local Government Act 1972; and designated a functional city region on 1 April 2011.


The building was required to accommodate existing growth at the Daily Express during the 1930s. During this decade the Daily Express was the most circulated newspaper in the world with sales of up to 2.25 million. [13] Max Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook, owner of the Daily Express, commissioned three buildings in London, Manchester and Glasgow which would help accommodate this growth. Beaverbrook stipulated that all three buildings should be of the highest architectural quality and assigned renowned engineer Sir Owen Williams to assist in the delivery of these three buildings. [14]

The London building opened in 1931, followed by the Glasgow building in 1937 and the Manchester building in 1939. Although similar to both buildings, it was uniquely different with Owen Williams acting as engineer and architect; the former two were both designed by Ellis and Clark. The Glasgow and London buildings were designed by chartered architects while Williams, although not a qualified architect, was a competent designer. The interior of the London building is lavishly decorated, but suffers from a poor and dense site. The architecture of the exterior and site of the Manchester building is regarded as superior which allows the building to shine. Williams kept the design simple, preferring curved corners, cantilever roof rails and a three-storey turret; all these features share more in common with a futurist streamline moderne design rather than art deco. [14]

Only thirty five years after opening, the building was Grade II* listed on 3 October 1974. [6] [15] The initial clients of the building, the Daily Express, left Manchester in the late 1980s, [16] possibly because other buildings in the area were in a poor state of repair. [15] However, after the Daily Express decided to leave the city, there was no new press which expressed interest in continuing the building's role as a printing centre, so instead this was discontinued; but printing does still continue in the area. [17]


Express Building roof detail Express Building roof detail.jpg
Express Building roof detail

The building's corners are curved, taking inspiration from the 1930s streamline moderne movement. It features typical Art Deco motifs: rounded corners, setbacks and a simple contrasting clear and black glass curtain wall. The Express began printing there in 1938 having been on the same site since 1927. Construction had to take place in stages so publishing could continue without interruption.

Originally, it was possible for passers by to peer into the main hall to see the large newspaper printing press. [18] When the building was converted during the 1990s, the glass was made reflective so outsiders cannot see the interior of the building. [18]

Nikolaus Pevsner described the building as an "all-glass front, absolutely flush, with rounded corners and translucent glass and black glass" and "a most impressive sight from the street, particularly when lit up at night." [19]

The Express Building influenced Norman Foster during his youth, describing "I was very taken with the Daily Express building, for example, from the Thirties, wonderfully curved with black glass." [20] "I knew it was there, and I went looking for it. It was not in a part of town that you could just stumble across it. I remember the chromed strips and the Vitrolite that the black façade was made of." Foster's first successful work was the Willis Faber and Dumas Headquarters (1975) in Ipswich, a building which share many features with the Express Building such as the use of dark glass, curtain walling and few right angled corners. The Willis Building is now Grade I listed.

Recent history

The building has been extended four times in its history, the most recent being between 1993 and 1995, [21] and has now been converted into apartments and offices for the Expressnetworks company. The former printing press was refurbished in the late 1990s and finished in 2000. [22] This was able to be done only through funding by the Express Group and regeneration grants. The structure was sold to Washington, D.C.-based A&A Investments in 2006 for £20.5 million, after previous owners Stockbourne had occupied the building for 12 months. [21] In April 2013, the building was put up for sale with an asking price of £9.5 million. [23] The building is undergoing significant works, and appears to be vacant during them as seen from the main road, as of February 2019.

See also


  1. Urban Memory :History and Amnesia in the Modern City. Mark Crinson. 2005.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Hartwell. p. 285.Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. Martin, Rob (27 January 2015). "Manchester's Modernist marvels". timeout.com. Retrieved 2015-03-14.
  4. "Manchester Architecture part three". Manchester Confidential. 21 April 2010. Retrieved 2011-12-08. First time visitors to the city frequently wonder if it was built within the last decade
  5. "The ascent of Manchester". Daily Telegraph. 24 May 2002. Retrieved 2011-12-08. For the first time since 1939, when Sir Owen Williams built his Daily Express building, it is possible to turn to Manchester not with a shudder but with keen anticipation.
  6. 1 2 "Great Ancoats Street, Daily Express Building". Images of England. 2002-04-14. Retrieved 2008-07-05.
  7. "Daily Express, Manchester". Engineering Timelines. Archived from the original on 2016-02-04. Retrieved 2011-12-09.
  8. "Daily Express Building London : Fleet Street". e-architect.co.uk. 6 March 2014. Retrieved 2014-03-21. The Express Building in Manchester (1939) is considered the best of the three due to its superior exterior design and better site and was the only one of the three to be designed by Sir Owen Williams.
  9. "Manchester Express Building" (PDF). GVA Grimley. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-04-05. Retrieved 2011-12-09. The building has been described by Sir Norman Foster as one of his top five favourite buildings in the world
  10. "Top 5 Buildings". visitmanchester.com. Archived from the original on 2011-07-17. Retrieved 2011-12-09.
  11. "The Best Buildings in Manchester (as voted by you)". prideofmanchester. Retrieved 2011-12-09.
  12. Historic England. "Daily Express Building - Manchester (1218285)". National Heritage List for England . Retrieved 2012-10-03.
  13. "The Daily Express". Spartacus. Archived from the original on 2012-10-07. Retrieved 2012-10-03.
  14. 1 2 "Daily Express Building, Great Ancoats St". Manchester Modernists Society. Archived from the original on 2012-07-05. Retrieved 2012-10-03.
  15. 1 2 "TDEB" (PDF). CUBE. 2001. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-04-09. Retrieved 2008-07-05.
  16. "Daily Express Building, Manchester". Andrew Goudie. 2007-04-26. Retrieved 2008-07-05.
  17. "Ancoats and its building today". Manchester City Council. Retrieved 2008-07-05.
  18. 1 2 "About Ancoats - Buildings - The Express Buildings". ancoatsbpt.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-12-09.
  19. Hartwell, Clare. Pevsner Architectural Guides - Manchester. Pevsner. p. 285.
  20. "Sir Norman Foster - 'My time as a bouncer'". phaidon.com. Retrieved 2012-10-03.
  21. 1 2 "Express building is sold to US group for £20m". Manchester Evening News. 2006-09-26. Retrieved 2008-07-06.
  22. "Express route to a richer life". Manchester Evening News. 8 October 2003. Retrieved 2011-12-09.
  23. "Manchester's Express Building on market for £9.5m". insidermedia.com. 24 April 2013. Retrieved 2014-03-21.

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