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16 Cook Street
Cook Street, Liverpool, UK
16 Cook Street
associated engineer
Peter Ellis
date  1866
era  Victorian  |  category  Building  |  reference  SJ343904
ICE reference number  HEW 766
photo  Paul Dunkerley
Only the second building in the world to use glazed curtain wall construction. To the rear is an equally innovative feature — a separate staircase clad almost entirely in glass held together with delicate cast iron mullions. The building retains its original uses, with retail at street level and offices above.
Situated in west Liverpool, less than 100m from the famous Cavern Club (rebuilt), the building at 16 Cook Street was designed by local architect and engineer Peter Ellis (1805-84) who lived in Falkner Street. He also designed nearby Oriel Chambers (completed 1864). Both buildings were built as, and remain, rental office space, and were designed to maximise the available daylight falling inside the rooms.
The five-storey Cook Street building is L-shape in plan and faces north. Its symmetrical street façade is composed of three main vertical bays of windows framed by deep-set slender stone-clad columns and mullions. The central bay is widest and further divided. At top floor level, the glazing is toped by a multi-pane almost Venetian-style arch. The side bays include entrance doors at ground level and arched heads at the top.
At the rear, in the crook of the L, lightweight curtain walls, with substantial bands of glazing, face a courtyard. The upper window glazing continues upwards with the slope of the roof, maximising daylight levels in the rooms below. Counter-sloping timber panels sit below the windows. The curtain walls are tied back to independent H-section iron columns using iron tension strips. The whole arrangement gives the interior an airy feel, heightened by barrel-vaulted ceilings.
To reach the office accommodation, a corridor connects the street entrance to the cast iron spiral staircase in the rear courtyard. The staircase is housed in a glazed 'cylinder' with a glazed conical roof. Its cast iron mullions are plain on the outside but fashioned into barley sugar twists on the inside. As the stair is located in a gap between the main building and its neighbour, the structure finds support on three sides and requires no central support.
The Cook Street building featured in an advertisement in the Liverpool Mercury of 26th November 1867, which read: Joseph Goodacre, Wine and Spirit Merchant (formerly of Church-alley), respectfully intimates that henceforth his business will be conducted at The New Premises, No. 16, Cook-Street, Which have been erected with a special view to the peculiar requirements of the Trade…
It's likely that Ellis’ work influenced Chicago architect John Wellborn Root (1850-91) in his work on early skyscrapers. During his teenage years, Root studied in Liverpool (1864-67) before returning to the USA to read architecture at New York University. However, after Cook Street, Ellis’ known works are civil engineering rather than architectural projects.
The building at 16 Cook Street has been Grade II* listed since July 1966.
Architect: Peter Ellis
research: PD, ECPK
bibliography
"In the Footsteps of Peter Ellis" by Robert Ainsworth and Graham Jones, Liverpool History Society, 2013
"The Buildings of England: South Lancashire" by Nikolaus Pevsner, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1969
www.ice.org.uk
www.liverpoolmonuments.co.uk
Location

16 Cook Street