Andrew Travers

Andrew Travers is a designer and researcher. He’s the author of Interviewing for research.

A northern cathedral

Posted on 26 Apr 2016

In Paul Morley's epic telling of The North (and almost everything in it) he writes about The Co-operative Insurance Tower, built in 1962 as Manchester's 'necessarily bold symbol of a post-cotton fightback'.

Inspired by modernist architectural thinking in the US and Chicago's 1958 Inland Steel Building in particular, the Co-op's tower both physically and symbolically represented the largest building outside of London, and the unique institution that built it, for over 40 years.

After the trauma of recent years, The Co-op is rebuilding again. Inside another revolutionary piece of architecture, directly opposite the tower, The Co-op is building an extraordinary digital team, a different type of architecture to re-imagine The Co-op's future.

I'm joining that team as head of digital design, working with a group that has no equal in Mike Bracken, Tom Loosemore, Ben Terrett, Russell Davies, Mat Wall, Jamie Arnold and more. A group of people I worked adjacent to in a government department while they were inspiring all of Government at GDS and that I am incredibly lucky to now have the chance to learn from directly.

Looking back at my time working as HMRC's head of design, the thing that ultimately gave me most satisfaction was bringing good, meaningful digital design jobs - contract and permanent - to the North East of England. As someone from even further north, who never had the chance to work as a designer in Glasgow, my home city, I feel more passionate than most about designers being able to stay in, return to and even to discover for the first time one of our greatest cities. And that's what Manchester is, a great city for design and for designers.

Morley goes on to describe the Co-operative Insurance Tower as:

'A cathedral to egalitarianism and northern pioneering spirit, with every aspect of its design an exercise in elegance and perfection.'

That's the spirit we'll be channeling at The Co-op.