How does the bank of the future look like? Bank’s headquarters are usually busy with a ‘corporate style’ filled with stressed out employees in small dimly lit cubicles, but this has been changing with architectural firms paving the way for banks 3.0….. Banks of the future.
The BMCE (Banque Marocaine du Commerce Exterieur) Headquarters in Rabat, Morocco by Foster+Partners which opened in March 2011 is one of these banks. BMCE a leading bank in Morocco needed to create a series of exquisite flagship branches which could be scalable ("kit-of-parts" approach) and inspire the look and feel of the future branches throughout the country and signal a dynamic presence in the cities of Casablanca, Fez and Rabat. Foster+Partners were appointed to actualise the banks design guidelines.
The key features of the branches are glazed aluminium façade, stainless steel panels, domes clad in Zellige (traditional ceramic tiling). The design is a concrete frame, with a colonnaded entrance and a series of bays which are repeated on a modular grid. The concrete design is then enclosed by glazed aluminium facade panels, covered with stainless steel screens 200mm in depth which provide shade and safety and fact sheet steel cutting blades.
The stainless steel screens are from a special blend of low iron content which does not heat up in the sun. The screens are curved creating a simple geometric and organic design founded on the Islamic motifs and patterns.
The offices and meeting rooms are on two floors where the interior and exterior are considered as a whole with the stainless steel screens being central to the façade as they are visible inside and out. The double volume lobby is centred on a rounded concrete structure which acts as a bench sweeping down from the vaulted ceiling.
The design is energy efficient and uses local materials such as black granite and gray limestone. The envelope is based on traditional energy efficient design that utilises local resources in labour and materials. The major branches have an "earth tube", a free electricity system of cooling: the fresh air is introduced into a vacuum tube that surrounds the building underground, where it cools naturally by the earth and released in the branch.
Domes clad in Zellige (traditional ceramic tiling)
The bank design adopts a dome which is clad in zellige (traditional ceramic tiling) while the interior is rendered in tadelakt which is a local plastering technique. This dome is the lobby’s central part sweeping down to form the curved concrete bench.
From the Architect Lord Foster:
"The main offices BMCE - our first buildings completed in Africa - to reinterpret the elements of traditional Moroccan architecture, the combination of these with a contemporary interior that reflects the Bank's gradual approach to its customers.
This mix of ancient principles and modern technology is also reflected in an energy efficient design. The result is a series of buildings that are sustainable and one each, singularly out of place. "