Skidmore, Owings & Merrill puts out the welcome mat for Charles Schwab & Co. in New York
Anne Guiney -- Interior Design, 12/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
Charles Schwab & Co. built an empire by making financial markets accessible to small clients. In designing a prototype investment center for Schwab, the San Francisco office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill took the philosophy a step further. SOM design partner Stephen Apking put the little guy at the center—and in almost every other part—of a 6,500-square-foot space in New York.
"Schwab's branches weren't keeping up with its business model," senior designer Tamara Dinsmore says. Though the majority of Schwab's 220 investment centers are in ground-level spaces, they weren't catering to foot traffic effectively. The Schwab Investment Center on Park Avenue makes it easy to walk in and find the needed level of service. Investors can pluck a brochure from a kiosk at the entrance and read the information on leather-covered couches while waiting to meet with advisers in the offices lining the perimeter. Clients checking an existing account can consult computers in four stations with sandblasted-glass dividers. For evening seminars, furniture rolls out of the central "town square" to make way for stacking chairs, and flat-screen monitors in the windows pivot to become interior displays. This setup has proved so successful that Schwab commissioned seven more locations based on this model.