Page D3.1 . 18 June 2003                     
ArchitectureWeek - Design Department
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Hipper Banking in Portland

by ArchitectureWeek

According to the designers of a bank branch in the once-industrial, now-chic Pearl District in Portland, Oregon, button-down bankers in marble-columned buildings are now passé. Such old-fashioned symbols of stability and conservatism are being supplanted by new ideas about banking — and by comfortable, artsy spaces for customers.

This new branch office of Umpqua Bank is the creation of architecture firm Thompson, Vaivoda & Associates and ZIBA, a design and branding consultancy. It is just a few blocks away from the original Niketown store, which revolutionized retail store design when it opened in 1990.

Dubbed "the next frontier in banking," the Umpqua branch, which is also referred to as a "store," it is said to reinvent the way consumers and businesses think about what is possible within a bank branch. Customers enter a comfortable open space that invites them to relax, read the paper, surf the Internet on provided wireless laptops, and sip the bank's own blend of coffee in bistro-like seating areas.

The store also features a concierge-style customer service desk reminiscent of a luxury hotel. Other interactive elements of the 3,100-square-foot (290-square meter) store include a flat screen television showing financial news and a shopping area that features business books recommended by Portland-based Powell's Books, Visa Gift Cards, and Umpqua Bank's Community Interest Accounts.

ZIBA combined research, expertise in consumer behavior, and an understanding of Umpqua's heritage to develop the design based on the question, "Why do we bank?" The answer, according to these designers, is to reach financial goals through inspiration and exploration.

Says ZIBA's creative director Steve McCallion: "For this store, we approached banking as a lifestyle decision and designed an experience that is a cross between an upscale hotel and a hip retailer. The goal was to establish an emotional connection between Umpqua and its Pearl District customers."

To this end, Umpqua provides after-hour use of the space for community activities such as investing club meetings, poetry readings, and seminars on how to buy art. Umpqua Bank president Ray Davis says that in calculating customer experience, his company "...pioneered the retail movement in banking ...and now we are rolling out the next-generation model."

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ArchWeek Image

The new Umpqua Bank branch in Portland, Oregon is a cross between a store and a hotel lobby.
Photo: Richard Strode

ArchWeek Image

The storefront bank lobby designed by Thompson, Vaivoda & Associates and ZIBA.
Photo: Richard Strode

ArchWeek Image

Bank lobby with coffee bar.
Photo: Richard Strode

ArchWeek Image

A flat screen television showing financial news in an area with comfortable seating.
Photo: Richard Strode

ArchWeek Image

Friendly and accessible banking in the Pearl District.
Photo: Richard Strode


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