After four decades in Stockholm’s central business district, Swedbank had outgrown its existing headquarters. The company wanted a new building that embraced the working methods and technology associated with banking in the 21st century - cooperation, knowledge sharing and networking – while also reinforcing its brand as an innovative financial institution. They retained 3XN to design a headquarters that supported the staff of 2,700, relocating them from a collection of environments that totaled 65,000sm into a new, efficiently designed 45,000sm headquarters. The building expresses the bank’s core values: openness, simplicity and care. 3XN materialized these values in a modern office space that emphasizes transparency, Scandinavian simplicity and encourages interaction at all levels. 3XN’s design reinforces the new
ethos of ‘one office space – one company,’ making the bank’s many departments feel like a cohesive whole. The architectural theme is a folded “triple v” structure that breaks up volumes and creates an inviting democratic environment. This solution means that employees are located closer to each other than in a traditional office wing, contributing to shorter distances, good internal communication, visual contact and knowledge sharing between departments. The “triple v” shape allowed for the placement of five atria that reinforce the organisation’s extrovert attitude, bring daylight in, enable views out from the offices and act as gathering places. Open footbridges link the “legs” of each “v” across the atria, create internal shortcuts with extra office space, p
rovide visual contact and create variation between the floors. This landscape of “vertical villages” incorporates a diversity of spaces that ensures each staff can find the best environment in which to work and provide a clear, human scale in a large building. Open plan office space in the tips of each “v” is organised as desk islands, with service facilities grouped in a central axis running through the building. The axis provides a natural promenade as the shortest route through the building, and creates a natural division into smaller spaces. Grouping kitchenettes, wardrobes, lounge areas etc. into the axis creates spaces for informal meetings and discussions. Breaking old patterns, the new headquarters offers three types of work environment: traditional, fixed office spaces, a number of flexible office units used as temporary workstations for visiting colleagues, and a series of touch-down spaces for quick, informal team meetings. The flexible and varied interior design creates dynamism throughout the day, ensuring that the best possible facilities are provided for changing professional and even social requirements. Two sculptural spiral staircases in the main lobby beckon staff and visitors, a means of architecture facilitating interaction. The two lowest floors house a restaurant, conference facilities and reception area with glass facades, emphasizing their semi-public functions and the organisation’s openness to its surroundings. The trading floor is placed directly above the public areas. The “triple v” structure, cantilevered over the two lowest floors, creates a partially covered portico at the base. The division of the facade complements this functional arrangement and decoratively breaks up the vertical surface into more compact geometric units. 31 “hubs,” areas surrounding a coffee station, promote job satisfaction, a collegial climate and social interactions. The coffee stations are distributed throughout the office floors and used at least twice a day when employees take the classic Swedish coffee break. These breaks support the individual employee’s sense of being part of a community and promote knowledge sharing. “Hubs” and coffee stations promote a sense of belonging to a particular department, while other aspects of the architecture, such as the absence of corridors and closed doors, facilitate encounters with people from other departments and floors. Areas for individual and collaborative workplaces are provided, responding to need and activity. No one, including most top executives, has a personal office, resulting in a democratic building. Sustainability is one of Swedbank’s core values and a driving force behind the design. The new headquarters received Gold certification from ‘Miljöbyggnad,’ the Swedish sustainability rating system, and was named the ‘Best Green EU Building’ by the Swedish Green Building Council. The bank aims for a maximum annual energy consumption of 50 kWh/sm, half the current standard environmental requirement. Energy saving features include: sensor-controlled lighting and ventilation systems, optimized daylight, LEDs provide 95% of all lighting, and a sophisticated system of roller blind-like climate curtains. ‘Free cooling’ is used throughout, which uses low external air temperatures to chill water, which can then be used for air conditioning or stored for later use in one of 60 boreholes (200m deep) under the building. The building recovers excess heat, including from the many computers on the trading floor, and uses that recovered energy to produce hot running water and to melt snow and ice in winter. The “triple v” design resulted in a compact building with smaller overall surface, reducing energy consumption. Access to a variety of mass transit options, company bicycles and sedum-covered ‘green’ rooftops reduces the employees’ CO2 footprint. 3XN 3XN was founded in 1986 and became known for creating buildings of substance with compelling aesthetics supported by a strong theoretical foundation. Through daring concepts and design, we create architecture that contributes positively to learning and working environments. We see a project’s complexity and challenges as positive creative forces, inspiring us to create something unique for the site and purpose. Believing that architecture shapes behavior, we try to create places where people can interact and communicate. We believe that buildings, like people, are more than just the sum of their parts. We believe that it is possible to achieve a synthesis of design, function and context. That is why a holistic approach is our guiding principle, and why we are forever exploring the possibilities of building better, cleverer, more beautifully. We build on the Scandinavian tradition of clear functionality and simple beauty. Each new project rests on the shoulders of our previous work, even though we always challenge conventions. We see each new project as an opportunity for research that enhances our experience and sharpens our approach.