103 THE BANK

103
Contribution to The Bank. Three Architectural Concepts for the Future
Deutsches Architekturmuseum, Frankfurt a. M., Germany
Exhibition 3-25 September 1994

The Bank is a fictive project with a fictive client, a fictive programme, and without a fixed location. It gave us the opportunity to think about the transformation brought by the spread of computers to every area of office work, whether in banks, insurance offices or elsewhere. Although changes in office decor in the course of the century have repeatedly been dictated by contemporary fashions and attitudes, computerisation of the workplace has brought a fundamental move away from the static perception of the office, towards the idea of a workshop equipped with all sorts of highly specialised tools and, simultaneously, towards the idea of the office as a place to live in, almost a private corner.

It is not our intention to analyse the various aspects of this new view of office work, or to predict its future. To do this, we would first have to understand the market mechanisms of the business world. The precise effects of computerisation on man’s living space can only be imagined. But we need an architectural project to give concrete shape to our idea.

How will the Bank of the Future look like? It will look the way the bank has always looked like and give us the same impression the bank has always given us: a stable, firmly rooted, unmistakeable structure, which is immediately recognisable as The Bank in any urban context, despite the plethora of symbols, signs and billboards. A building that becomes almost a trademark, which anyone can recognise, without having to study languages or semiotics. The Bank: a place of money, a secure place, a place that, like a precious object, radiates security. Security and stability: characteristics reclaimed, as it were, from a past era. The project not only expresses the idea of stability and firm roots. This is also a variable, flexible structure, which can be adapted to different sites. It consists of prefabricated container-shaped components resembling bars of gold and lead. By arranging these elements in different combinations, the Bank meets the spatial needs and specific urban context of each branch office. Thus a branch office can be built with a single component or with two or more components. Thanks to the specific character of their architectural concept, each branch office—i.e. each specific combination or form— is always recognisable as The Bank.

The gold bar is a transparent element with gold-sheened glass ceilings and walls. This gilded space, filled with automatic cash dispensers and computer monitors, is the self service area and constitutes The Bank’s real trademark. Like a huge banner, it unfolds into the urban surroundings. It is the main public space of the bank of the future, a sort of game room for bank customers. The bank of the future won’t be just a stronghold for money, but a place where money is no longer visible, where real transactions with financial resources will be turned into a kind of video game, with the numbers and charts on the computer monitors simulating the various investment opportunities.

The lead-sheathe containers are not open to the public like the gold ones. They are used for administrative functions and customers consultations. Internally, they can be divided into traditional offices or into offices combined with advisory areas, videoconferencing areas and so on. These administrative containers can be used as clearly circumscribed units or linked up to create larger adjoining office spaces comparable to a village or small town of containers or mobile homes. This flexibility matches the flexibility of the architectural structure in adapting to highly diverse sites. The Bank can assume an informal, apparently casual urban guise, as if two or three mobile homes had been put together at random; but it can also become a strictly formal, classical architectural arrangement of layered administrative units. With their repetitive order and uniformity, these units are no longer temporary containers, but look instead like large masonry stones.
Herzog & de Meuron, 1993

FACTS

Herzog & de Meuron Team:
Partners: Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron
Project Team: Johannes Schallhammer, Hansueli Suter, Ascan Mergenthaler, Peter Zimmerli, Reto Oechslin

Client:
Olivetti, Ivrea

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Fernando Márquez Cecilia, Richard Levene (Eds.): El Croquis. Herzog & de Meuron 1981-2000. Between the Face and the Landscape. The Cunning of Cosmetics. Entre el Rostro y el Paisaje. La Astucia de la Cosmética.
2nd adv. and rev. ed. Vol. No. 60+84, Madrid, El Croquis, 2005.

Wilfried Wang: Herzog & de Meuron.
3rd adv. and rev. ed. Basel / Boston / Berlin, Birkhäuser, 1998. (= Studiopaperback).

Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani, Herzog & de Meuron: Tre Progetti di Banca di tre Architetti Europei. Three Designs for Banks by three European Architects.
In: Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani (Ed.). Domus. Rivista Internazionale di Progetto. International Design Review. Vol. No. 764, Milan, Domus S.p.A., 10.1994. pp. 20-27.

Jacques Herzog & Pierre de Meuron.
In: Olivetti Progetti (Ed.). The Bank. Three Architectural Concepts for the Future. Exh. Cat. Die Bank. Drei Architekturkonzepte für die Zukunft. Chipperfield, Herzog & de Meuron, Souto de Moura. Deutsches Architektur-Museum, Frankfurt a. M.. 3 - 25 September 1994. Olivetti S.p.a, 1994. pp. 54-71, 90.