Blank Studio Design + Architecture

Glitnir Bank Headquarters

Reykjavik, Iceland (2006) 

This competition requested a new 14,000 square meter headquarters for Glitnir, new residential area of 8,500 square meters plus 43,000 square meters of new commercial area. The solution began with the brief’s challenge to create a cohesive environment between a new bank headquarters, commercial uses and an existing residential fabric. Understanding the greatest barrier to harmony amongst these elements to be their vast difference in scale, this proposal offers a mitigation of scales through separation, liberating the site by removing the bulk of the program from the land and placing it in the sky, above the site, freeing the area for public passage and use. Once the majority of the headquarters’ program was lifted above, the challenge of service and access is answered through a direct interpretation of the programmatic requirements. The bank was to provide two main entrances and paths of movement, one for its staff and one for its clients and executives. These elements, once separated, become the vertical supports of the mass, the visual destination of its patrons, and the elements of the design that create an identity for Glitnir, and the City of Reykjavik.

The building employs a dual-skin glazing system that consists of an outer skin of glass (translucent or clear) and an inner skin of glass (translucent or clear) or opaque insulated wall. The layering of these planes creates a variety of visual experiences that acts to limit the ‘heaviness’ of the structure. The shallow floor plates and the glass system allow, at all times, natural daylight to evenly spread throughout the building, lessening the need for artificial illumination, even in the overcast skies of Iceland. At night, the translucent glass skin shimmers with refracted light – creating a beacon visible from points across the city. 

The roof over the lower ‘bar’ portion of the building has a rooftop café area accessed from the main building lobby. The remainder of the roof area is a sod-planted surface that collects and filters rainwater and adds thermal mass to the building to minimize drastic swings in temperature.


Client: Glitnir Bank

Status: Open competition complete - 2006

Collaborator: Michael Powell