Why financial institutions are turning toward new spatial taxonomies

‘Flexibility’ and ‘transparency’ are not words traditionally associated with the finance industry. As a typology, the bank is seen as a symbol of strength, power and security. But with 97 per cent of the money in today’s economy represented by digital deposits – leaving only 3 per cent as tangible cash – the taxonomy of space in financial buildings is being overhauled. Less floor area is given to traditional storage methods, leaving much more room for a brand’s values to shine.

Amsterdam – Recognizing that banks not only provide a public service but are also a place of work, architects and designers are challenging their impenetrable roots and instead prioritizing openness, community and wellness.

ING, the Netherlands’ largest bank, recently gave 2,800 of its employees a new home in Amsterdam. Known as Cedar, the five-storey building was designed by Benthem Crouwel Architects and HofmanDujardin as more than a bank – or even an office. Instead, it is a manifestation of the brand’s purpose to ‘empower people in a building that opens itself up to society’.


Cedar’s glazed, curved form connects with its surroundings to become part of the urban space within Cumulus Park, a so-called ‘innovation district’ initiated by ING that has now gained support from the Municipality of Amsterdam and a number of local educational institutes. A large, landscaped green zone in front of the building is open to users and visitors, promoting connections between the financial institution and the neighbourhood in which it sits.

The complex is designed as a one-stop shop for staff invigoration and empowerment. Including such amenities as a garden café, coffee bars, food court and events hall, the space offers a sense of transparency and connectivity that seem to counteract the emphasis banks once placed on security and privacy. A daylight-filled atrium forms the connective heart of the building, with staircases and platforms creating opportunities for spontaneous meetings and small social gatherings.

Given the freedom to choose where and how they work, employees can occupy ING’s various open and collaborative spaces – although mobile, flexible structures can be used to create temporary ‘rooms’ when more privacy is needed. All in all, Barbara Dujardin and Michiel Hofman say they created an interior that focuses on wellbeing. ‘You feel the freedom when you walk in.’ 



ING is not alone in its objective: the new office for Wells Fargo at Hudson Yards also takes an employee-first approach. Read about the Wells Fargo space and our takeaway from these cases in our forthcoming March—April 2020 issue, Frame 133.

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