Financial institutions once occupied the most prestigious and opulent buildings and locations in every city and town. They oozed intimidation, grandeur and wealth. Then banks became nameless and faceless boxes, one or more in every block, just like franchised fast-food chains. And then it seemed we’d soon have no physical banks at all, only banking machines and online banking.
But now we are starting to see banks that seem to want to talk to us again. It seems that they want to make us feel welcome, actually wanting to appeal to customers again.
The new financial spaces are designer banks that look more like five-star hotel lounges, bars or nightclubs than the boring boxes banks have become.
Our recent examples of cool banking environments — from retail spaces to offices — have come from Paris, Milan, Moscow, Melbourne, Sydney and Amsterdam.
The latest of these designer banks is the Raiffeisen Bank’s flagship in Zurich designed by design co-operative NAU with associate team of DGJ (Zurich.)
The goal of this white space-agey environment is to break down the physical and emotional barriers between customers and staff. Stern tellers and three-piece-suited bankers behind high counters and glass walls, and accessible only through little windows like jailbirds — these are things of the past.
In this new world of banking, customers are invited to learn more about the bank’s services and products though interactive touch screen tables, while surrounded by digitally produced massive portraits of prominent past residents of the area.
We assume the staff members are equally stylish in attire and grooming as it is tough to imagine bespectacled tellers or portly pin-striped bankers in this environment. - Tuija Seipell
Perhaps we have died and gone to heaven, or just seeing visions, but this not the kind of bank that we do business with. Unfortunately.
This far-reaching concept bank is located in the historical building of 2, Place de l’Opéra. The space is chock-full of completely wacky un-bank features, yet it also has a nice retro touch — the honeycombed ceiling, lovely mirrors — that gives it the elegance and respectability that the building’s history warrants and the bank’s business must convey.
Other than that, it is an almost 1,000 square-meter funhouse of colors, shapes, textures and forms with the goal to entice the customer to discover, interact, experiment and (gasp!) enjoy.
In ten specific zones, all regular banking functions from daily banking to stock-market info, private meetings, staff training can take place with the emphasis on breaking the age-old banking set-up where the client and the adviser (the teller, the banker) are on opposite sides.
All of this plus a temporary exhibition area dedicated to kids, a coffee bar, a 25 square-meter green, living wall set the tone for the unusual banking experience. Of course, such aspects as ergonomics, sustainability, proper lighting and the latest technology, are givens.
In addition to custom furniture and furnishings, Zoevox used furniture by Christophe Delcourt, Philippe Hurel, Paola Lenti, Christian Liaigre, India Mahdavi, Antonio Lupi (lavabo), Pierre Paulin and Philippe Starck, and lighting by Sylvie Coquet, Adrien Gardère, Poul Henningsen, Marco Merendi, Karim Rashid and Patricia Urquiola. Now, can we all expect our neighbourhood banks to change? Tuija Seipell
By the late 1980s, the Praediniussingel building that had accommodated the Groninger Museum for 100 years, had become too small for the museum’s modern and contemporary art, fashion and design, and historic arts collections and exhibits. By 1994, new premises on the Verbindings Canal in Groningen, in the northern Netherlands, were designed by the Italian Alessandro Mendini and guest architects Philippe Starck from Paris, Italian Michele de Lucchi and the Coop Himmelb(l)au group based in Vienna and Los Angeles.
Since 1994, nearly 4 million people have visited, leaving behind wear and tear. The premises have now been renovated and new spaces by Antwerp-based Studio Job, Spanish designer Jaime Hayon and Maarten Baas have been added. The Info Center by Hayon is one of the coolest areas in the new building. Computer stations embedded in a many-armed desk provide information about the museum’s exhibits. Tuija Seipell
Supermachine Studio in Bangkok, Thailand, is a group of four multitasking architects that team member Pitupong “ Jack” Chaowakul describes as “small office – big projects.” “We work like guerrilla designers, everyone does everything, constantly shifting,” he told TCH.
Supermachine’s latest achievement is the interior design of two floors of one of Bangkok University’s new four-storey buildings that form the new, spectacular Landmark complex, designed by Bangkok-based 49 Group.
Supermachine’s work in the Bangkok University Creative Centre (BUCC) - about 600 square meters in total – includes a workshop, library, exhibition space, viewing room and office.
According to Chaowakul, BUCC was set up as part of the government’s goal to transform the country’s economy from agricultural and industrial into the creative economy. To encourage creativity, communication and experimentation, the BUCC facility needed to be open, playful, expressive and flexible.
One of Supermachine’s solutions was the “Lo-Fi pixel wall” at the entrance. They covered a 180 square-meter wall surface with 10,000 custom-made rotating four-sided plastic pieces. Each piece has a pink, blue, green and yellow side. Students can rotate each unite and create colour patterns, write messages or just experiment with the tactile wall.
In the student workshop, Supermachine enclosed the internet centre in a space-ship like green pod that students can move around in the open space.
Construction at BUCC is coming to a close and the facility will open shortly for students. Supermachine is currently working on the interiors for the university's student lounge facility. - Tuija Seipell
Great, aesthetically pleasing design needn't be limited to traditional architectural forms such as houses and public buildings.
Utilitarian spaces, such as car parks, present architects and designers with a unique opportunity to bring beauty and harmony to the everyday functional spaces that are normally ignored by great design minds.
We're excited to report that the tide is changing, evidenced by these good-looking car parks.
Modern design is all about "experience" and these car parks pictured acknowledge that one's experience of a private or public place begins the minute they pull up in their car. Innovative developers and designers are recognising just how crucial this is - it's almost too late by the time the consumer arrives at the front door. The "experience" of good design starts well before that.
Our agency ACCESS is currently working with a few developers globally in creating the ultimate public car park and we're on the hunt for architects/designers who already have created in this space. In the know? Get in touch. Seen any other interesting car parks we should know about - send us tips - Bill Tikos
Loft Hamburg, located in a restored building in the Winterhude district of Hamburg, is a private 118 square-meter residence designed by Graft. The focal point of the high-ceilinged and otherwise white space is a large pod paneled with walnut. The pod contains the residence’s kitchen and bathroom, hides its central heating, cooling and plumbing, and even provides some cupboards and bookshelves. The owner was looking to use a wide variety of materials, and the walnut pod contrasts beautifully with the soft fabrics, leather and natural stone used elsewhere in the loft.
Graft is an architecture, urban planning and design company established in 1998 in Los Angeles by German architects (,) Lars Krückeberg, Wolfram Putz, Thomas Willemeit and Gregor Hoheisel, all now in their early forties.
Their Berlin office opened in 2001, and Beijing office in 2004. Alejandra Lillo joined Graft as the fifth partner in Los Angeles in 2007. - Tuija Seipell.- Tuija Seipell.
Nothing turns heads faster than a cool retro print on an über hot car, and our Space Invader and Pac Man inspired Mini Coopers had half of Sydney in a neckbrace this summer from all the attention. Average Joes on the street became home-schooled paparazzi as they snapped away at the Mini on their mobile phones and forwarded them on to friends.
If you think your design has what it takes to get wrapped around a Mini then send it in to us this month and you could see your work blazoned across our exciting new global launch.
In a world where people appreciate good design everywhere, cool mini hotel rooms are the latest ‘it’ trend. In Tokyo, the Capsule Inn exemplifies the bare-essentials hotel rooms for brief use, and similar concepts are popping up at airports, train stations and downtowns around the world, replacing and mimicking the “day rooms” already existing at many airports.
Unlike Tokyo’s bed-only cabins where customers climb into a human equivalent of a honeycomb for a night’s rest, Yotel pods at Gatwick and Heathrow airports in London and Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam come in larger and more comfortable formats. These self-contained mini hotel rooms are equipped with a bed, table, HD TV and Wi-Fi.
The fourth Yotel is set to arrive in New York in 2011 with a location opening on 42nd and 10th street boasting 669 luxury rooms and the largest outside terrace in any hotel in New York
Also in Amsterdam, Citizen M has a hotel with 230 mini rooms at Schiphol Airport and a 215-room hotel in Amsterdam City. Citizen M plans to open similar hotels across Europe.
Qbic Hotels has opened two “cheap chic” hotels with mini rooms in the Netherlands: Qbic World Trade Centre Amsterdam and Qbic Maastricht, plus one in Antwerp, Belgium.
Taking the next step in rest and space efficiency, Russia’s Arch Group designed the SleepBox.
Along with an airport version of the rest pod, equipped with the usual, high-tech necessities offered by other companies, Arch Group has also designed an easy-to-relocate version fit for hostels. A small, mobile compartment, 2m (l) x 1.4m (w) x 2.3m (h), SleepBox is made of wood and MDF. SleepBox is meant to “allow very efficient use of available space and, if necessary, a quick change of layout”, making it perfect for hostels where demand and space available often come in conflict with each other. The hostel-specific SleepBox features bunk beds, flip-out tables and sockets for computers or phone chargers and not much else. Yuri Pushkin, Tuija Seipell.
City of Utrecht in the Netherlands has developed a large complex, Cultuurcampus Vleuterweide, where half of the floor plan is taken up by a school and a sports facility, and the other half includes 55 residences, a church, cultural centre, theatre, and a library.
It is the internet “café” of the info centre/library that sparked our imagination with its bulky, woody mass and colourful, folkloric embellishments. Wouldn’t it be amazing if more internet cafes paid this much attention to design?
The architect of the complex is Vera Yanovshtchinsky Architecten based in The Hague. Interior design and furnishings are by Assen-based AEQUO BV Architects that is known for impressive school and library work.
Throughout the entire Vleuterweide facility, AEQUO has sprinkled fun embellishments, including lime-green, lemon-yellow and azure-blue walls, and pink carpets. Furnishings and lighting fixtures also draw attention: A prim, baroque chair covered in hot-pink fabric in one corner, a group of lumpy recliners upholstered in brown flour-sack material in another. - Tuija Seipell
Today’s demanding consumers expect even their beloved, favourite brands to step up their game. Many run-away online successes of offline brand “stunts” attest that consumers expect, and get really excited about, experiences that are unusual, fun, thought-provoking and emotionally engaging. With the power and immediacy of social media, surprising offline events and stunts have now turned into truly powerful promotional tools.
In 2010, TCH will launch Access Agency. It is a dedicated entity that will continue our work of creating highly original, transformational, yet eminently practical and results-oriented strategies for companies to stage the kinds of offline brand experiences that will increase the economic value of their offering.
Access specializes in helping brands and businesses see the world differently. We add substantial value by creating customized experiences that change the consumers’ thinking in some way. The surprise element changes the thinking patterns, and the change makes the experience memorable. People want to talk about it, tell everybody about it. And that, in turn, translates into added brand awareness and ultimately sales.
Access is hard at work creating ideas and concepts for some high profile brands. For McDonald’s, we envision a cool, surprising and fun mix of concepts. First is McFancy, an upmarket temporary McDonald’s store that launches at Fashion Weeks around the globe — London, New York, Paris, Milan, Sydney, Hong Kong. McFancy is part art installation, gathering spot and, of course, a restaurant that offers a traditional McDonald’s menu but packaged in a way that makes a playful yet stylish nod to the lifestyle of the highly desirable, influential consumers that attend Fashion Weeks.
Waiters in tuxedos, silver service, private dining areas, and packaging co-created with the fashion brands that present at Fashion Week — Burberry burgers, Chanel fries on black packaging, Paul Smith Sundaes…A bit of fun among the serious business of fashion. A bite of comfort food among all the elaborate cocktail fare, Private dining rooms, a raised catwalk that winds around the perimeter of the space, and with a central bar area providing a dramatic focal point. The ceiling is constructed from stretched fabric, ribbed to provide articulation and define zones. The form of the ceiling is accentuated through the use of LED lighting.
We believe that McDonald’s can have major presence at events like NY Fashion Week, movie premiers and other high-profile events by creating a space to fit that environment.
This is just one of many concepts that Access Agency will be launching in 2010. Brands wanting to create something innovative and extraordinary should contact [email protected]
See also McMobile McDonald's (below)