The 30 Most Architecturally Impressive Banks In The World
It’s pretty safe to say that we associate banks first and foremost with the acquiring and managing of money rather than with state-of-the-art architecture. However, the headquarters and offices of some of the world’s leading financial institutions are as awe-inspiring as the vast amounts of capital that pass through their hands. Architectural firms have been pushing the boundaries when designing bank buildings, and the fruits of their labors can be seen in cities and towns around the globe. They really do make for very attractive places in which to work. Here are 30 of the most architecturally impressive bank buildings in the world.
30. Agricultural Bank of China and China Construction Bank, Shanghai, China
These two towers in Shanghai’s Pudong New District almost look as if they might topple over at any moment – but don’t worry, they’re perfectly safe. The twin marvels, which house the headquarters of the Agricultural Bank of China and the China Construction Bank, are the work of international firm Arquitectonica. Despite their unusual angles, the buildings were designed to be “all about balance, order and stability.” The materials that make up the building exteriors include stone, glass and aluminum – all of which are recyclable and were locally sourced. Measuring 708 feet in height, the 49-story towers were completed in 2011.
29. Macquarie Bank Center, Sydney, Australia
The distinctive white lattice that hugs the headquarters of the Macquarie Bank Center in Sydney certainly catches the eye – and this “diagrid” structure is the only one like it in the Australian city. Local architecture firm Fitzpatrick+Partners was responsible for the unusual appearance of the 151-foot-tall building, which was finished in 2009. And the building is also innovative on the inside – accommodating eco-friendly features such as passive chilled beams – while water from Sydney Harbor is utilized for cooling purposes. These touches have led to the building receiving a Green Star rating of six from the Green Building Council of Australia, placing it in the “World Leader” category.
28. Torre Cuscatlán, San Salvador, El Salvador
Torre Cuscatlán stands like a 243-foot mirror in the city of San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador. It once held the honor of being the tallest building in the entire country, until this title was taken by Torre El Pedregal. Still, this tower is mightily impressive on its own merits thanks to its shiny glass cladding and distinctive zigzagging exterior – and it also looks pretty handsome when lit up in blue or yellow at night. El Salvadorean architect Ricardo Jiménez Castillo was responsible for the unique design of the building, which was completed in 1989 and is now home to Citibank.
27. Frost Bank Tower, Austin, Texas, USA
Durham, North Carolina’s Duda/Paine Architects teamed up with international firm HKS, Inc. to conceive the outstanding Frost Bank Tower, which was completed in 2003. The 33-story tower rises 515 feet into the sky and is notable for being the foremost high-rise building to be erected in America following the attacks of September 11. The Austin headquarters of Texas’ Frost National Bank is clad in a low-e glass façade that is blue in color – a distinction shared only by New York City’s Reuters Building. And the tower is popular with local residents, too, as readers of the Austin Chronicle chose it as their best new building of the past five years in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008.
26. Bank of China Tower, Shanghai, China
International architects Nikken Sekkei teamed up with the Shanghai Institute of Architectural Design & Research to develop the Bank of China’s Shanghai headquarters. The striking new office building was completed in 2000, and the construction stands at almost 742 feet tall. This skyscraper was sympathetically designed to blend in with the buildings surrounding it, while it was also influenced by the views over the Huangpu River. It does have one more notable claim to fame that marks it out from the rest, though: it’s the tower from which Tom Cruise’s character bungee jumped in Mission: Impossible III.
25. Scotia Plaza, Toronto, Canada
Scotia Plaza was completed in 1989 and may now be nearly a quarter of a century old, but it remains sleek and striking where it stands in the Toronto cityscape. “Napoleon Red” granite makes up the good-looking exterior of the building, which was designed by the city’s WZMH Architects and plays host to the Bank of Nova Scotia’s international headquarters. The innovative folds in the design not only emphasize the structure’s slenderness, but also serve a more practical purpose, as they afford the opportunity for numerous corner offices. At the time of Scotia Plaza’s construction, it became the second-tallest building in Canada, at a height of 902 feet.
24. Islamic Development Bank, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
International architects Nikken Sekkei Ltd combined Islamic design with more contemporary architectural methods when preparing a blueprint for the headquarters of the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah. The sleek, streamlined building features a limited number of narrow apertures across its exterior, reducing levels of sunlight, while central patios incorporate glass walls to prevent the building from feeling too dark. Completed in 1993, the 349-foot-tall structure was honored at the Cityscape Architectural Review Awards in 2007, where it was named the “Built Winner” in the Commercial/Mixed Use category.
23. Nykredit, Copenhagen, Denmark
The award-winning headquarters of Danish banking firm Nykredit were designed by international firm schmidt hammer lassen architects, and the project was completed in 2001. The building’s ten-story transparent cube design allows passersby to see the hive of industry inside, but in spite of the large amount of glass used, the development remains eco-conscious. Certain areas of the façade and roof can be opened up for extra airflow, while water drawn from the harbor close by is used for cooling purposes. The building has managed to impress those in the know, too: in 2001 it was awarded The Architecture Prize of the Municipality of Copenhagen, and it was honored as “Best Office Building” at the FX International Interior Design Awards the following year.
22. Deutsche Bank Twin Towers, Frankfurt, Germany
Deutsche Bank’s Twin Towers in Frankfurt, Germany weren’t originally built for the financial firm, but rather for a Hyatt hotel. After the hospitality chain pulled out of the project, Deutsche Bank claimed the distinctive, shiny pair of skyscrapers – designed by Walter Hanig, Heinz Scheid and Johannes Schmidt – for its headquarters, and the banking institution has been there ever since. There have been a few changes since the buildings were completed in 1984, as a recent overhaul has seen the 509-foot-tall towers undergo a refit, making the complex more environmentally friendly as well as better protected against fire. As a result, carbon dioxide emissions and energy usage have both been slashed in half.
21. BB&T Financial Center, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA
The dazzling, postmodern structure that is BB&T’s Financial Center has stood proud in Winston-Salem, North Carolina since 1987. Kentucky-based architects Sherman Carter Barnhart and local firm Hammill-Walter Associates were responsible for the 295-foot-tall design, which features an attractive green glass skin over a rigid concrete frame. The building was initially constructed as the base for Piedmont Airlines, but Piedmont succumbed to a takeover at the time the structure was unveiled. It then played host to Southern National Bank before BB&T moved in.
20. Saxo Bank, Copenhagen, Denmark
Saxo Bank in Copenhagen, Denmark has been described as a “young, dynamic internet bank,” so it’s only fitting that it has a suitably dynamic building for its headquarters. The bank entrusted local architects 3XN to produce a bang-up-to-date new home, and the end result is a striking, modern structure that can’t help but stand out. The building was completed in 2008, and the seaside was a key inspiration behind its design: a mixture of hard and soft edges contribute to this aesthetic, while the green and white color scheme echoes the ocean and sky.
19. Hypo Alpe-Adria Bank, Tavagnacco, Italy
Italy may already have one leaning tower in Pisa, but American architectural firm Morphosis added another to the town of Tavagnacco when it designed the Italian headquarters of the Austria-based Hypo Alpe-Adria Bank. The bank’s tower tilts forward at a 14-degree angle – performing a rather ingenious function in the process: during summertime, the floors higher up the building protect the lower stories from excessive sunlight. An exterior envelope also further restricts unwanted sunlight without casting the interior into darkness or detrimentally blocking views for its staff. Completed in 2006, the building as a whole received a Merit Award at the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Los Angeles Design Awards in 2008.
18. Torre Banco de Panamá, Panama City, Panama
This striking high-rise with its unusually patterned exterior comes courtesy of Spanish firm Herreros Arquitectos, which was tasked with producing a new home for Banco de Panamá in Panama City. The structure is actually comprised of four distinct buildings packed together that together offer a host of different but spectacular views over the city. Meanwhile, the structure’s multi-hued appearance is down to a covering of glass that incorporates various colors and transparencies. This eye-catching development, which has an area of 381,000 square feet, was completed in 2011.
17. Unicredit Ţiriac Bank, Bucharest, Romania
The gleaming new headquarters of Romania’s Unicredit Ţiriac Bank is perhaps one of Bucharest’s most memorable sights; indeed, it looks almost as if it is curving in on itself. Westfourth Architecture – which has offices in Bucharest, Istanbul and New York City – was responsible for the modern design, the aim of which was to provide an architectural interpretation of the bank. Construction and energy costs for the company were also taken into consideration during the building’s development, but the comfort of occupants wasn’t ignored in the process. The building, which was completed in 2012, has even hosted art displays from UniCredit’s own collection.
16. ING House, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Completed in 2002, the 157-foot-tall ING House in Amsterdam looks somewhat like a large, shiny spaceship, although apparently some have also dubbed it a “shoe” or “dustbuster.” Local firm MVSA Architects came up with the innovative design for Dutch multinational the ING Group’s headquarters. The stilts supporting the structure measure up to 41 feet in height and were incorporated so that drivers on the nearby highway could see beyond it. Meanwhile, a double-layered façade was created to block out exterior road noise while also affording sufficient airflow.
15. Isbank Tower 1, Istanbul, Turkey
Isbank Tower 1 stands a mighty 594.5 feet tall (638 feet with its flagpole), which lent it the honor of being the tallest skyscraper in Istanbul for around ten years. The building plays host to Turkish business bank Türkiye İş Bankası and was completed in 2000. Its appearance perhaps looks somewhat familiar, as certain details of the postmodern structure are similar to those of New York’s Trump Tower. Hence, it’s probably no surprise to learn that both buildings were the work of the same global firm: Swanke Hayden Connell Architects.
14. National Bank of Dubai, Dubai, UAE
The National Bank of Dubai is arguably one of the Middle Eastern city’s most handsome sights, but it would undoubtedly be a stunning vision anywhere else in the world, too. The 410-foot-tall building was completed in 1998 and is covered in gray granite and gold glass. International firm NORR Group Consultants teamed up with Uruguayan architect Carlos Ott to design the structure. The distinctive shape of the building is a tribute to the traditional dhow boats – particularly the contours of their hulls – that anchored in Dubai Creek. This motif can also be found in the towering structure of the Burj Al Arab hotel.
13. Bank of China Tower, Hong Kong
While it may be a staggering 1,033.5 feet tall, the Bank of China Tower is actually only the fourth tallest of Hong Kong’s buildings. The bank’s primary headquarters are in Beijing, and its Hong Kong base was completed in 1990; at the time it was a groundbreaker, as it was the sole structure outside the U.S. to rise to over 1,000 feet. New York-based architects Pei Cobb Freed & Partners had to take into consideration one very important factor when designing the skyscraper: the area in which it stands is a typhoon zone. Aesthetically, the tower is said to look like sprouting bamboo shoots – an appropriate symbol of prosperity.
12. DNB NOR, Oslo, Norway
Netherlands- and Shanghai-based MVRDV had an unusual inspiration when it came to the design for the headquarters of DNB NOR bank in Oslo, Norway. The architects based the concept for the 17-story building on an individual 20×20-foot pixel – and the end result transforms and multiplies this fundamental element of digital images into a three-dimensional, stone-clad reality. Some of the floors have the luxury of open-air terraces or roof gardens, so employees can enjoy some outdoors time, while an interior cutaway section helps bring sunlight into the building, which was completed in 2012.
11. Torre São Paulo I, São Paulo, Brazil
Global Spanish bank Banco Santander purchased the sleek, streamlined Torre São Paulo I for its Brazilian headquarters for a remarkable $650 million. The building rises to a height of 447 feet and was completed in 2009. In terms of materials used, it is a combination of steel, aluminum, granite, reinforced concrete and, of course, glass – which gives it its attractive reflective façade. Global firm Arquitectonica’s appealing design also saw it reach the final shortlist the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat Best Tall Buildings Award. Torre São Paulo I is the first stage in the new WTorre JK Complex, which is to be a multi-use development incorporating the Juscelino Kubitschek Financial Center and an extension of a shopping mall.
10. Puerta de Europa Tower, Madrid, Spain
Architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee were responsible for the unusual leaning tower that houses the operational Madrid headquarters of Spanish conglomerate Bankia. The building is one half of a pair known as the Puerta de Europa towers, which were finished in 1996; the other edifice belongs to real estate firm Realia. Each structure stands at 374 feet, and the noticeable 15-degree tilt of the towers made them the first inclined skyscrapers ever constructed. The Bankia building, like its twin, has a helipad on its roof, and back in 1995, when the constructions were nearing completion, they featured prominently in Spanish film The Day of the Beast.
9. Bank of America Plaza, Dallas, Texas, USA
At an impressive 921 feet, the gleaming Bank of America Plaza stands proud as the tallest building in Dallas – as well as the third loftiest in the entire state of Texas. Its current sleek façade is comprised of sheets of blue glass and stripes of decorative gray marble, while LED tubes added in a 2013 renovation illuminate the outline of the building at night. JPJ Architects and HLM Design came up with the original plan for the structure, whose two highest stories also act as a broadcast communications tower. The completed construction was unveiled in 1985, and thanks to its electrical efficiency it became among the earliest U.S. buildings to gain an Energy Star award.
8. Volksbank Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe, Germany
The headquarters of Volksbank Karlsruhe in Germany look a bit like a giant, polychromatic fish from certain angles. The oddly arresting six-story building, which opened in late 2008, comes courtesy of Stuttgart-based architects Herrmann + Bosch, and it is arguably as eco-friendly as it is head turning. Through measures such as solar panels and geothermal heating, its utilization of renewable energy sources has cut down on carbon dioxide emissions by an astonishing 86 tons annually. Others benefit directly from its features, too, as all of the energy yielded by the solar panels goes into the public energy grid.
7. Comerica Bank Tower, Dallas, Texas, USA
It is said that everything is bigger in Texas, and perhaps it’s grander, too, if the Comerica Bank Tower in Dallas is anything to go by. Despite a lofty height of 787 feet, it’s only the third-tallest skyscraper in the city – the honor of the loftiest going to the Bank of America Plaza at 921 feet. The Comerica Bank Tower was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning American architect Philip Johnson alongside John Burgee at Johnson/Burgee Architects and in conjunction with global firm HKS, Inc. It was finished in 1987. MCorp Bank were the original tenants following the tower’s opening, but Comerica Bank claimed the premises as its headquarters in 2007 and has been there ever since.
6. Bendigo Bank, Bendigo, Australia
Australian firms BVN Architecture and Gray Puksand teamed up to develop the multicolored wonder that is the Bendigo Bank headquarters in Bendigo, Victoria. The west side of the building is bedecked with multicolored panels – these being in fact aluminum sunscreens that not only make the edifice visually appealing, but also cut down on the amount of bright sunlight entering its interior. The color palette of the sunscreens is also a nod to the structure’s surroundings: the red shades echo the brick buildings of Bendigo, while their green counterparts take on the hues of the adjacent park. This bold piece of design was completed in 2008, and all staff were ensconced the same year. The building went on to scoop a number of Royal Australian Institute of Architects Awards in 2009.
5. China Merchants Bank Tower, Shenzhen, China
The China Merchants Bank Tower has the distinction of being among the tallest buildings in the city of Shenzhen, soaring to a height of no less than 738 feet. Its shiny glass panels and unique shape may mark it as one of the most distinctive edifices in the area, too. The modernist structure was completed in 2001 and serves as the China Merchants Bank’s global headquarters. It was designed by international architectural firm Leigh & Orange Ltd. And in case any very important people fancy dropping in, the skyscraper features a handy landing pad on which visitors can alight in their helicopters.
4. NORD/LB, Hanover, Germany
German/American firm Behnisch Architekten has said that its building for German bank NORD/LB “gently integrates itself in the existing fabric of the city.” With its slick urban looks, we’re not entirely sure that it goes wholly unnoticed, though. After all, there can’t be many bank headquarters in Hanover that look as if they are so intricately balanced. This feat of design, which was finished in 2002, has garnered some attention on the awards front, too: it received a RIBA Award for Architecture in 2004 and was on the midlist for the organization’s prestigious Stirling Prize that same year.
3. European Investment Bank, Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
Düsseldorf-based international firm Ingenhoven Architects created a glass-clad wonder when commissioned to design the new ten-story offices of the European Investment Bank in Luxembourg City. The building’s spectacular roof – which lets in abundant amounts of daylight – rises above the two office wings, and these V-shaped spaces are themselves linked to winter gardens and atriums. Since its completion in 2008, the structure has picked up a slew of awards, including a Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) International Award and the Emilio Ambasz Prize for Green Architecture for International Buildings. Those winter gardens don’t just look pretty, either; they also serve as a thermal cushion, in effect removing the requirement for air-con and heating.
2. HSBC Main Building, Hong Kong
The Hong Kong headquarters of multinational bank HSBC was completed in 1986 and is said to have “good feng shui” because it is close to the water of Victoria Harbor, with its view unobstructed by other buildings. In the ancient Chinese philosophical system, water is linked with wealth, so the location of the 600-foot-tall banking headquarters augers well. Global firm Foster + Partners was behind the structure’s design, which has clinched several honors, including the London Royal Academy’s Premier Architectural Award and the Quaternario Award for Innovative Technology in Architecture. It’s also noteworthy owing to the fact that the sun’s rays provide the main form of illumination for the building’s interior.
1. Bank of America Tower, New York City, New York, USA
One Bryant Park is the stunning home of the Bank of America in New York City. Finished in 2009, the towering skyscraper was designed by local architects COOKFOX. This remarkable construction soars to a height of 1,200 feet, and the cost of building it was equally jaw-dropping – $1 billion all told. The sky-piercing spire at the top doesn’t just look good, either; it has also helped cement the structure’s place in the history books as the current third-tallest building in the Big Apple. Furthermore, the building’s eco-friendly credentials are in no doubt, since it was the first skyscraper nationwide to scoop a LEED Platinum certificate from the U.S. Green Building Council.