What’s the most important space in a contemporary bank building? The entrance point? The facade? The customer service area? All of these certainly are, but the client, VR Bank Nord eG in Flensburg and architects – dl architekten (Bredstedt) and interior designers / ebene03.büro für räume (Hamburg) – paid particular attention to the design of the customer support spaces. The planners and interior designers of the new headquarters wanted to turn customer support into the type of experience where both parties felt they were on an equal footing. In addition to a specially developed table range, Wilkhahn’s chair models also play a pivotal role – from the ON free-to-move office chair to the ON cantilever chair, the Occo shell-structure chair and the stackable Aline chair to the Sola conference chair.
The new VR Bank Nord building in Flensburg, designed and built by dl architekten PartG mbB (Bredstedt) is remarkable for its august brick cube exterior and dynamic interior. At the heart of the building lies the central entrance hall in the shape of a light-flooded atrium which allows the beholder to experience the full, approx. 17-metre height of the building. Impressive, single flights of stairs cover the open space in the middle and lead to spacious galleries all the way round, which provide access to the customer support spaces. Communication islands with upholstered furniture divide up these communal areas and provide opportunities for impromptu chats. The interior features bright surfaces and white wall claddings that deliberately provide a contrast with the dark exterior; organically shaped illuminated rings emphasise the airy feel of the inside of the building.
A dedicated furniture concept for customer support spaces
When developing the concept for the bank with its brand values of fairness, transparency and personality, it quickly became clear that the way companies engage with customers is playing an increasingly important role, particularly in a digitalised world. While the bank creates a link to the urban space via the materials used and regional masonry styles, the furniture boosts customer loyalty. Interior designers ebene03.büro für räume (Hamburg), Stücker Büroeinrichtungs GmbH (Kiel) and north German manufacturer Wini developed their own furnishing concept for customer support spaces. The goal was to avoid the outdated approach where people sit opposite one another and to provide a backdrop where both parties felt empowered.
Interaction at a round table
A round table is central to this concept. It allows people to sit together as partners and facilitates the presentation of a range of products and services on a screen so that everyone has an unobstructed view. Wilkhahn’s ON cantilever chairs round off the setting. The flexible, sprung and firmly upholstered chairs boost the dynamic atmosphere. Their formal clarity is a reference to the free-to-move office chairs from the same range, which are also positioned at the desks. These chairs’ patented three-dimensional movement capability doesn’t just allow people to move forwards and sideways, but also to rotate their hips. ON also encourages micro movements that are so important for the metabolism and health. After all, the bank wants both its customers and employees to feel that they are in good hands.
An integrated approach
The high regard in which the bank holds its workforce is also reflected in other areas of its North German headquarters. It’s not just the conference rooms that are fitted out with Wilkhahn’s prestigious, leather-covered Sola chairs and elegant Graph tables but its Occo shell-structure chairs in the company restaurant also ensure that feel-good factor is present. And the large seminar room offers both a wonderful view over the rooftops of the Schleswig-Holstein town and elastic comfort while sitting on Wilkhahn’s Aline chairs. The training area also features the space-saving and versatile Timetable table range. The fact that the Volksbanks and Raiffeisenbanks are committed to applying sustainable and socially responsible standards, meant that they wanted to work with manufacturers who adopted similar approaches. And Wilkhahn has been awarded many sustainability prizes – from the 1996 German Environmental Award to the 2018 B.A.U.M. Environmental Award for Wilkhahn’s sustainability management. In this case, it’s not just the health of sedentary employees but also practical aspects that play a role. The Timetable tables are easy to handle and the Aline chairs light as a feather to stack so that facility managers don’t have to worry about their backs either. Perhaps the most important goal of a contemporary cooperative bank is to focus on ensuring that customers and employees can interact and feel that they are on equal terms.