Times Square am Main
Ian Phillips -- Interior Design, 10/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
The Frankfurt investment center of Credit Suisse Group may sit right in the center of Germany's financial capital, but the office's focal element is an import from Italy. When Credit Suisse asked Park Associati to design a Milan branch four years ago, says principal Michele Rossi, the bank issued a brief for "something big and loud, like New York's Nasdaq building, with a multimedia presence on the outside." Never mind that the property in question was an 18th-century building near the historic Duomo. "Instead," adds principal Filippo Pagliani, "we suggested putting all the technology on the inside." Credit Suisse agreed—and the Milan lobby's huge rear-projected PVC cone proved such a hit with the bank's big cheeses in Switzerland that Park won three commissions for German investment centers, each integrating a dramatic multimedia application.
These vary from one Credit Suisse center to another, but other elements remain constant. Park specified warm materials for all consulting areas. (Note the Frankfurt consulting area's red wool carpet and oil-treated teak doors). Public areas' atmosphere, meanwhile, is cool and technological. Pietra serena flooring creates continuity with the pavement outside, and different forms of glass appear throughout. (There's frosted, back-painted glass for the Frankfurt reception desk and acid-treated glass for the staircase balustrade.) "We were very keen that everything be as transparent as possible," explains Rossi. "These centers are mainly an advertisement for the bank, so it's important for them to be seen."
In Frankfurt, the generous glazing allows passersby a virtually unobstructed view of Park's most spectacular multimedia intervention yet: a 46-foot-long, 16-foot-high curved LED screen. Supported by a structural steel beam at ground level, the enormous screen hangs over a well open to the basement level, where public presentations and exhibitions often take place. Because the screen comprises dozens of individual tiles, it offers great flexibility in terms of visuals: An image can occupy either the whole surface or just a portion.
Given such impressive capabilities—not to mention the amount of creative energy expended during the 10-month design and installation process—Rossi and Pagliani were understandably disappointed to learn of Credit Suisse's initial intention to project promotional spots on the LED screen. "We asked, 'Why not use it for video art?'" says Rossi. Once again, the architects' suggestion carried the day, and the bank commissioned 10 short pieces from top names on Europe's contemporary-art scene. So, instead of happy investors sailing on a Swiss lake, clients may find themselves watching a baby's face gradually morph into a child's, then an adolescent's, and eventually an old man's—part of a mesmerizing sequence by Norbert Kraus.