Financial Institutions Bank on Brands, Trust

Event: Public Lecture Series: Design Directions for Banking and Finance
Location: Center for Architecture, 03.10.08
Speakers: Serge Appel, AIA, LEED AP — Associate Partner, Cook + Fox Architects; Lance Boge — Principal, Gensler; Randolph H. Gerner, AIA — Partner, Gerner Kronick + Valcarcel, Architects; Rafael Pelli, AIA, LEED AP — Partner, Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects NY Office
Moderator: Fanny Gong, AIA — Co-Chair, AIANY Committee on Banking and Financial Institutions
Organizer: AIANY Committee on Banking and Financial Institutions
Sponsors: Champion: Studio Daniel Libeskind; Supporters: Gensler; Humanscale; James McCullar & Associates; Friends: Costas Kondylis & Partners; Forest City Ratner Companies; Frank Williams & Associates; Hugo S. Subotovsky A.I.A. Architects; Mancini Duffy; Magnusson Architecture and Planning; Rawlings Architects; RicciGreene Associates; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Syska Hennessy Group; Trespa North America; Universal Contracting Group

Empire State Building, One Bryant Park

One Bryant Park will impact the NYC skyline creating an icon for Bank of America.

Jessica Sheridan

Whether they are small-scale, local retail branches or large international corporate headquarters, banks have a very simple agenda: evoke a sense of trust in people. Recruitment and retention is the goal for institutions, both for their customers and employees; it is up to the architects to suggest security, familiarity, wealth, and even happiness in their designs.

For retail banks, banks are for the consumer; hence, they must portray a strong, easily identifiable brand. Gensler has designed a series of LEED Silver PNC Banks, projecting an attitude that aims to attract consumers. The branches are designed using a panel system so each bank may be adjusted based on size or site requirements. Not only is the system flexible and standardized for fast production, it creates an overall aesthetic for the bank. Anyone driving by will recognize the bank by the architecture, not just the signage.

The United Overseas Bank in Singapore, designed by Kenzo Tange with interiors by Gerner Kronick + Valcarcel Architects, on the other hand, uses metaphor to invoke a sense of strength and prosperity. The building has a presence in the city because of its height and central location along the Singapore River. The interior takes advantage of this by incorporating 40-foot-high ceilings in the main hall. An interior stream takes water from the river to a central fountain symbolizing money flowing into the bank — seems an early failed scheme had water flowing the other way — and a large coin-like object made from gold and silver leaf creates an image of money falling from the sky.

For corporate and trading offices, banks compete for the most qualified employees. Attracting and retaining those individuals becomes the focus of their designs. At 731 Lexington Avenue, where Bloomberg is headquartered, Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects created a social atmosphere by minimizing individual workspaces and maximizing collective areas. Conference rooms, cafeterias, and public areas are centered around an exterior courtyard, or “urban room.” Because the building is mixed-use, the courtyard acts as an oasis from the bustling retail-oriented avenues, and provides a space for business functions. The courtyard is lined with stainless steel tubes that create both transparency and privacy, and act as a framework for events that enhance office culture — from canvas canopies to the annual Christmas tree.

When completed, it is hoped that One Bryant Park, designed by Cook + Fox Architects, will attract employees for Bank of America through sustainable design. 100% of the building incorporates under-floor air systems and individual temperature controls providing the maximum amount of comfort and a healthier interior environment. The air will be cleaner inside than outside, said Serge Appel, AIA, LEED AP, associate partner at Cook + Fox Architects. With floor-to-ceiling glass on the exterior and interior glass partitions, daylight will penetrate to the core and provide views of the skyline and Bryant Park. With the many green features, Cook + Fox Architects hopes to increase productivity by 1%, or five minutes a day per person. This is equal to one fewer sick day per year per person, and a savings of approximately $7.5million for the bank.

To attract clients, retail banks need to focus on brand identity and marketing to the public, while their corporate office counterparts compete to provide the best work environment for the highest quality employees. In these four examples, the architects tried to create iconic architecture that provides a brand identity through systems, symbols, layout, and sustainability.