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This fit-out of a multinational banking corporation's regional headquarters exemplifies the industry's attributes

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Tradition and conservatism versus modernity and progress – very distinct principles but all at the heart of modern banking.

How to convey the positive attributes of these disparate elements as a cohesive whole? This was the conundrum facing the team at Singapore-based interior design consultancy Designphase when it was commissioned to fit out the Asia Pacific headquarters of SG Private Banking.

"Banking has gone through enormous changes over the past 15-20 years," says Designphase managing director Derek MacKenzie. "Most people still have a concept of stability being synonymous with banking, but there is now an expectation that the industry will be technologically advanced as well."

"In the interior design this is manifested in a much younger look, that still has an elegant quality. The scheme is discernible in every department, across the breadth of the corporation."

Designphase's most senior designers, Phillips Connor and Eric Magno, incorporated a number of subtle influences into the design, which were intended to augment the quality of the fit-out, while at the same time serving an underlying physical purpose.

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"Following principles established by SG Private Banking, Designphase was tasked with the design of a facility that respected client confidentiality, comfort and status, while providing staff with an inspiring and egalitarian workplace," says SG Private Banking CEO Singapore & South Asia, Pierre F Baer.

"The office was also designed with the bank's high net-worth clients in mind, as they do come by the office to seek advice from their private bankers," says Baer.

A curved or circular motif repeats throughout the design and is particularly noticeable in the reception area. The contrast of materials means clients are almost instinctively drawn towards the windows, in what is a softer approach without the angularity or resistance of straight lines.

"There was a very real reason for drawing clients to the windows – the company is located in an area of Singapore that is undergoing extensive corporate expansion. This mirrors SG Private Banking's own growth and this message is subliminally conveyed to the clients, reinforcing the central tenets being expressed in the design," says Magno.

The reception is made up of a number of private meeting rooms and in these spaces too, the curved motif plays an important role.

"By utilising a series of curved planes we have been able to arrange the meeting rooms so that none of them open directly onto another. In this way the privacy of SG Private Banking's clients is maintained. Sculpture in this area also breaks up sightlines in the confines of the corridor," says Magno.

Behind the scenes, just as much thought has gone into the efficiency of the staff areas. Given the diverse services offered, it would have been very easy to simply compartmentalise each department, but Designphase has strived to produce an inclusive environment.

"Getting the geometry of the layout right was all important," says MacKenzie. "The bank itself has undergone a shift in thinking and gone are the days of visually segregating the different departments."

"What tends to happen these days is employees are viewed as a single team of differently skilled members. Just as players on a sports team have different roles to fulfil in order to achieve a common goal, so too does a business team."

Magno admits to taking some liberties when it came to designing the overall scheme for the staff areas.

"We were able to bring a more relaxed quality into these spaces, which has allowed us to do away with traditional office geometry and create something that has a more visual reference point," says Magno.

Bold accent colours and patterned carpets enliven these spaces, yet the quality of the finishes is another reminder of the company's purpose as a place of work.

"The finishes were carefully selected to focus on quality and status, matching the bank's own quality and status – it is, after all, primarily intended as a work space, not a fun place," says Magno.

"As a bank known for innovative products, and to continue to be at the forefront, the design of the office reflects a forward-looking ambience. The results are as interesting as they are elegant," says Baer.

First published date: 21 September 2009

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Credit List

Location SG Private Banking, Singapore
Interior designer Designphase Pte Ltd
Fit-out company New Art Interior Pte Ltd
Civil engineer TY Lin International Pte Ltd
Mechanical and electrical engineer J Roger Preston
MEP contractor Wah Loon
PM and quantity surveyor Jones Lang LaSalle
Acoustic consultant CCW Associates Pte Ltd
AV consultant Hewshott Associates
Partitioning system Clestra from MTM Solutions Pte Ltd
Blinds Tachikawa roller blinds from TTS Window Fashions Pte Ltd
Drapes Black-out motorised track from Anemone Interiors
Tiling Statuario Blanco, Dark Emperador, Rosso Levante marble tiles from Polystone
Flooring Theory & Blip from Milliken Carpet
Paints ICI; Dulux
Wallcoverings and treatments Wallpaper from Goodrich; Designtex from Luxuriate Furnishing
Lighting Modular, Flos, Foscarini, Antares, Barrisol from Bizlink
Workstations Martex Office; Haworth from Rosso Cina
Office chairs Meda Slim from Vitra; Leap Chair from Steelcase
Reception furniture Victoria & Albert sofa by Moroso from Modliving; Bloom chairs from Cream
Additional furniture Ares Xten from Vanguard; Shells from Valtra; Driade from XTRA
Bathroom fittings Axor Starck by Hansgrohe
Compactus Nordplan from MTM Solutions Pte Ltd; Kim Leng