Roughly five years ago, the leaders of Swedbank decided to move their operations out of the office building they had occupied for four decades in the heart of Stockholm. The 1970s edifice, along with neighboring buildings that the bank had expanded into, consisted primarily of cellular offices and long corridors and was cramped and dark. It “no longer matched their vision for banking's future,” says Daniel Markstrom, head of architecture for Humlegården, the developer of Swedbank's new 484,000-square-foot headquarters in Syndbyberg, a suburb and commuter hub about 5 miles from central Stockholm. What the bank wanted, says Markstrom, was a more flexible home that would accommodate all 2,700 employees and foster collaboration among them.
In response to these desires, Humlegården and its Copenhagen-based architect, 3XN, created a building for the roughly rectangular 1.2-acre site that is six stories tall at one end and gradually ascends to nine stories at the other. The steel-and-concrete structure has a zigzagging plan that forms what the designers describe as a “folded triple V.” It defines five dramatic skylit atriums—one within each fold—that offer visual connections among the bank's working groups.
Creating the atriums actually saved money, says Kim Herforth Nielsen, 3XN principal. Enclosing the spaces between folds reduced the exterior surface area and, as a consequence, cut the amount of aluminum-and-glass skin required.
The interiors, developed with Swedish firm Tengbom, have white walls, oak floors, and splashes of color. The layout includes almost no private offices. Instead, there are cubicles, upholstered chairs, niches with tables and banquettes, and glass-enclosed conference rooms. Employees are not tethered to a specific desk; they select their work locations daily, based on personal preferences and their assigned projects.
This system functions well, says Nielsen, because there are almost twice as many work spaces as there are occupants. Yet 3XN's building is about 25 percent smaller than the bank's former home. This is possible, in part, because the new structure frees up space once taken by conventional hallways. Rather than enclosed corridors, an open “main street” offers a route through each floor and connects its coffee stations. The placement of these gathering spots transforms the circulation areas into zones for socializing and informal meetings.
The new building's use of space is not its only efficiency. Swedbank anticipates that its annual operating costs will be about $20 million lower than they had been in the city center. The new headquarters should also conserve energy due to features such as a heat-recovery system and a thermally robust skin. The energy-use target, excluding lighting and plug loads, is only 4.65kWh per square foot per year—half the current standard. Although it is still too early for a complete year of operating data, the building is performing better than expected, according to the developer, with consumption hovering around 3.72kWh per square foot per year.
The project's success can be attributed to the alignment of the clients' goals with those of the design-and-development team, according to Markstrom: “3XN's philosophy and architecture,” he says, “are a perfect match for Swedbank.”
Formal name of building:
Gross square footage:
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Lighting: Black Ljusdesign
Acoustical: Åkerlöf Hallin Akustikkonsult AB
Project Manager: Forsen Projekt
Sustainability/Certification: Miljökonsult Sofite Åberg AB
Fire: Brandkonsulten AB
Blind system for façade: erco systems ab
Metal doors: Swedoors
Wood doors: Swedoors
Special doors: Lemming & Nørholm
Security devices: Boonedam
Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Frapont
Raised flooring: Lindner
Special interior finishes unique to this project: CSK fabricated steel stair
Coffee stations and feature walls: SIBAB