Bank Sohar

Project type: Office


Location: Oman


Time: 2011


Status: Concept Design Proposal


Info: Architectural Design Competition New Head Office

Proposal for New Bank Sohar Head Office


The design for the new Bank Sohar Headquarter in Oman addresses a complex set of circumstances and conditions that are solved with an integrated design strategy. The building mass is positioned in the southern part of the site with the parking program serving as a setback buffer area towards the highway on the northern perimeter.


Maximizing the allowable buildable area in a simple diagram results in a rather monumental program volume resembling the iconography of a city block with a triple loaded slab set-up around the perimeter of the area of construction on the site. Following the clients desire to only use about half of the building in the first phase of occupancy led to a strategy of separating this compact program into two L-shaped building volumes that define and connect via a public interior atrium space.


This formal move articulates an otherwise oversized building mass into a composition of architectural volumes to achieve a more human scale. This grouping of two volumes around a patio theme allows for a more flexible choreography of program and creates spaces with variations and accentuations that a single, large volume would not facilitate. The atrium courtyard penetrates the northern and southern facade as a crystalline, diamond sculpture, giving the separation of the two buildings a formal theme and making the patio glow like a facetted diamond at night.

This „diamond gap “ serves as natural entry point on the northern facade, defines the location of the port cochere and allows a distribution of customers into both buildings from a central access point. In a future second phase of occupancy, when Bank Sohar will occupy the entire building volume, no redefinition of two competing access points will be necessary.


On the southern facade the separation of the volume only exists in the upper floors, allowing for addition illumination of the courtyard. This way, the atrium is not only an interior space with skylights, but gains unusual qualities through sightlines to the outside and natural sidelight for drama at both ends of the atrium.


In the first phase of occupancy, Bank Sohar would occupy the northern L-shaped wing of the development, maximizing on the ocean views and facing the more prominent „address“ of the highway exposure across the parking area. The program distribution throughout the floors of the Bank Sohar building component follows the client brief in detail. The central atrium becomes the public plaza that gives visual quality and atmospheric energy to the interior views from the offices that normally are less desirable in their orientation and provision with natural light. Shops, restaurants and the public interface counters of the Bank Sohar establish this atrium as a luxurious market place and a climatized area for public functions, daily lunch breaks and an impressive entry hall for the bank customer.


The separation into two separated building volumes allows for a flexible use around the courtyard perimeter and maintains a flexibility of serving scenarios for one or two and more separate tenants. In the future optional bridges can easily connect the two buildings across the northern and southern gaps and facilitate a functional shortcut should Bank Sohar occupy the entire building.


The architectural components and their design are driven by a process of transforming elements from the history of Oman culture into a contemporary architectural expression that the same time communicates the pride for the local heritage. Modern architecture is not a quality by itself but resonates best within the visitors mind if it links itself to the cultural context of its surroundings. The Bank Sohar design aim for an artistic balance that is not driven by literal quotations or cultural symbolism, but transforms these inspirations to a higher level of aesthetic abstraction – while at the same time still associating with the original iconographies. The storyboarding of this design process and the mechanisms of transformation are best understood if one starts an imaginary approach to the building as a visitor.


A field of shading devices on the open air area of the parking lot does not only provide a climatical cover for the exposed car parking, but also establishes a formal symbolic theme of the design language for the building. Instead of offering a very unattractive view onto a field of parked automobiles, the shading structure formally translates the image of a group Dhow Sails into an architectural theme and attractive sight. The iconographic triangle of the sail also serves for the development of the facade theme.


The building is enclosed with an highly energy efficient glass facade system that allows on one hand the optimization of views towards the outside where desired and at the same time assures a sustainable climate concept that takes into consideration heat gain through sun radiation into the building envelope. This first interior facade layer is enhanced by a modular, metal screening system that is mounted as second shading layer on the outside.


Following the inspirational theme of the iconographic dhow sail, the sunscreen has been developed through an intentional translation of the Bank Sohar logo components into a modular field condition across the facade. This screen system uses a triangulated pattern resembling the learned shape of the sail and logo and juxtaposes it onto a rectangular construction grid. This modular approach allows for a cost-effective manufacturing process while at the same time gives enough flexibility for variations within the formal theme. For additional sculptural articulation of the facade, these screening modules will be three-dimensional in certain areas of the facade.


The modular flexibility makes it possible to create a denser shading grid on the western and eastern facade where heat gain is the predominant problem. On the southern and northern facade the modular field of fewer shading modules and therefor allows for more transparency and better sightline optimization. The silvery copper tone of the metallic shading screen associates this historically precious material with a rich heritage in the copper mining and trading in Oman and gives the glass facade a look of higher quality then the usual simple reflective envelopes of the standard institutional buildings. The sculptural relief of the three dimensional screen patterns gives the facade depth, variation and continues the rich tradition of arabic architectural ornamentation into the 21st century.


Sculptural interventions in the overall volume like the executive balcony and the diamond atrium, a modern transformation of symbolic iconographies into a sunscreen system and the use of a materiality that links to the heritage of trade and wealth of the region make the entire building an aesthetical and sculptural experience as a holistic art piece.