Architects: Herreros Arquitectos
Location: Costa del Este, Panama
Project Architects: Herreros Arquitectos + Mallol y Mallol
Project Managers: Jens Richter (HA), Ignacio Mallol (M&M)
Project Team: Gonzalo Rivas Zinno, Carmen Antón, Joanna Socha (HA), Ruben Taboada (M&M)
Client: Banco de Panamá
Area: 35,395 sqm
Photographs: Fernando Alda
Facade Consultant: Gruppo Entesa
The initial conditions are difficult: to design an office building with parking space elevated from the ground, in a context where public space is scarcely valued, with no capacity to anticipate its occupants or the subdivision of each floor, but with the requirement that all services be separated. The design of the typical plan becomes an exercise in flexibility and indeterminacy. The necessity to give the building an attractive way of touching the ground is an exercise of urban responsibility. The volume and the façade are the only territories of design freedom, along with some decisions with respect to finishes in the lobbies and the parking areas.
In terms of program, the tower section is organized as the terraced stacking of four independent buildings. The first takes in the city on the ground level, with the bank offices over which is the six-floor parking lot. The three remaining are prisms of varying dimensions that are setback with respect to the one below, yielding terraces oriented towards the sea and the Historic City Center.
Each prism can be read as a small canonical office building, with its own lobby that is linked with the areas shared by all the tenants: a restaurant, a gym and a leisure and meeting club. At the top, an emblematic room can be seen from anywhere in the city.
The envelope consists of a curtain wall with glass panes tinted in different shades and transparencies, which introduce a random and vibrant factor in their reading, not only due to the apparent play between opacity and reflection, but also because of the scalar ambiguity of the typical element that does not coincide with any obvious horizontal line of the building. This prevents a reading of the program from the exterior, and introduces a diversity of sill heights of great spatial dynamism in the interior. The system naturally incorporates the special cases, like the large frames of the terrace windows, the air intakes of the building service platforms, or the parking lot ventilation. The introduction of basic sustainability criteria in a context that ignores them, supports the choice of the glass panes and their shades, as well as the density of panes of each transparency depending on their orientation.
The project assumes the conditions of a competitive medium in terms of budget and deadlines to implement a market product with added value that demonstrates the constant relevance of quality architecture. The plastic quality of the façade, the chromatic exercise of the finishes in the parking lot or the obsessive search for balanced proportions seek to give the building a “manifest intentionality”, a determination to demonstrate that under any condition, architecture has answers that can hardly be produced by a direct and thoughtless application of an apparently pragmatic ideology that rarely exceeds a minimum display of sensibility and imagination.