The Bank of Manhattan headquarters and flagship branch defy the conventional corporate bank image with an inviting contemporary environment that is more boutique hotel than guarded financial institution. The client approached architecture firm, form environment research (fer) studio, to update its headquarters to project the company’s more approachable brand identity and to create a comfortable small business banking atmosphere for its customers, while maintaining the necessary requirements for bank security. Located on the ground floor of a six-story commercial building in El Segundo, CA, the project addresses an interior and exterior remodel and expansion to an existing corporate office space, board room, conference rooms and branch location.

The new exterior features a landscaped plaza, signage and rectilinear wood and steel canopy that provide a distinct street presence for the bank against the building’s expansive glazed façade. In addition to scaling down the multi-story structure to give a more intimate approach for customers, the canopy shelters the ATM box, which protrudes from the glass doorway as a stone clad cube. Typical ATM flood lighting was dismissed for more refined recessed overhead lighting and bollards that together furnish the required visibility by code, while maintaining the polished design of the new entry. The lighting design combined with the warm natural materials of the dark wood, shell stone, cobbles and feathery plant material provide a more inviting notion of arrival for customers and bank employees.

The continuity of materials and design elements, such the slate pavers and canopy, make the transition from the exterior to the interior seamless. Inside, the wood canopy ceiling narrows into a pier, a nod to the coastal community of Manhattan Beach, and leads from the plaza through the branch, connecting the corporate lobby, offices, and board rooms together both figuratively and physically. Glass doors and partitions reinforce the fluidity from one space to the next and the unobstructed views throughout the facility communicate the bank’s brand identity of transparency and trustworthiness.

Free of the typical teller queue and security glass, the Bank of Manhattan branch has an open configuration with desks flanking a central reception complete with plush leather chairs, designer light fixtures, pin spotted photography from a locally commissioned artist and custom millwork. A more comfortable atmosphere is created by the open floorplan, choice of materials, and by strategically concealing the cameras and security desk, toning down customers’ awareness of surveillance.

Following the wooden pier element through the glass doors, visitors are taken from the branch back towards the corporate office lobby. Echoing the staggered recessed lighting in the ceiling, offset windows puncture the hall, providing a visual connection between the corporate lobby area and the private offices and workstations beyond. The spontaneous composition of the windows and lights also help to break up the orthogonal layout, infusing the corporate office area with an air of informality. Past the reception desk, the hall leads to two glass conference rooms, where the pier design element reappears on the ceilings and integrates lighting as well as conceals AV equipment.

Without sacrificing security, (fer) studio redesigned the Bank of Manhattan headquarters and El Segundo branch to elevate the corporate environment to something on par with a high-end hotel experience through the use of luxurious materials and thoughtfully designed solutions that enhance the bank’s brand identity and transparency. The result is an inviting and comfortable environment for both bank customers and employees.

Typology Commercial
project type Tenant Improvement
location El Segundo, CA
size 15,000 SF
CLIENT Bank of Manhattan
status Completed, Nov 2011


Structural Engineer Risha Engineering Group
Lighting Designer Francis Krahe & Associates
Work Station Designer Strong Projects Office Furniture
Contractor Howard CDM
Photographer Alan Sisto of Fresh Page Images