Bank of America trades up with a trading floor at headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina
Jared Neumark -- Interior Design, 11/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
On their own, the two words are innocuous enough. Combine trading and floor, however, and you evoke images of chaos: shouting men jostling, with sharp pinstriped elbows, in a dimly lit pit that reflects its dog-eat-dog function. Chaos does still rear its head in a world where million-dollar gambles are made with the click of a mouse, but modern innovations have imposed as much control as possible by improving communication and maximizing efficiency. Bank of America Corporation, headquartered in the burgeoning financial center of Charlotte, North Carolina—which eight other Fortune 500 companies also call home—owns one such state-of-the-art trading facility.
Interiors partner Stephen Apking's corporate portfolio already boasted trading floors for the lofty New York Stock Exchange itself as well as nearby Merrill Lynch and UBS in Stamford, Connecticut. So he's had his thumbprint on the exchange of billions of dollars. Designing large, high-tech business spaces, he points out, is not an enterprise for frilly decorators. "Trading environments naturally deal so heavily with the building structure and infrastructure—in terms of power, data, HVAC, security—that they tend to be more technical and more architectural in how you approach them," he explains. "Personally, these are the kinds of projects that really excite me, ones that have this kind of scale and complexity."
BoA's 62,000-square-foot space, three stories tall, is column-free to optimize sight lines, including views from the glassed-in conference rooms on a rear mezzanine. The huge volume is supported by the steel triangles of a king-post truss system, a built-in geometry lesson that spans the trading floor while helping to break up echoes, too. Other acoustical provisions, such as the triple height, contribute to the effort of limiting background noise for people sitting at the rows of double-screen computers below. "It's unbelievably quiet even when you have 650 traders all talking on the phone," associate partner Douglass Alligood says.
Keeping the volume clear created a placement challenge for the technology that serves workstations a quarter the size of a typical office. Apking's team solved the problem by relegating equipment to the floor below—part of it is crammed with computers that look massive enough to run the whole city. From the adjacent lobby, an escalator lets traders put on their game face as they slowly ascend past soaring glass walls, a preview of the main floor's motif.
Other design elements, particularly the diagonals of the roof gables and the king-post trusses, are empathetic gestures intended to create continuity with BoA's deco-inspired main tower, which adjoins the building that houses the trading floor. Because the trading floor is at the top of that building, Apking could manipulate sunlight angles. He was able to limit glare and contrast, thanks to clerestories that capture indirect light. These high windows are perhaps the space's most unique feature. To make them possible, air-conditioning units are installed at the perimeter of the interior volume rather than above.
Most of the brightness comes in through the trading floor's 100-foot-wide north wall of crystal-clear mullionless glass. "Artists have always loved facing north, of course, because you get very evenly diffused, beautiful light throughout the day," Apking says. In contrast to smaller openings used elsewhere on the project, the broad north facade creates a diorama effect for passersby, offering them a rare peek into the bustling banking world that gives Charlotte its new identity.