2014

MCHAP

Bank of Panama Tower

Juan Herreros

Panama City, Panama

February 2012

PRIMARY AUTHOR

Juan Herreros Guerra (Herreros Arquitectos) Ignacio Mallol Azcárraga

CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR

Eustiquio Gómez (structural engineer) IMYCSA (facade contractor)

AUTHOR

Carlos Fernández (CAO developers)

PHOTOGRAPHER

Fernando Alda

OBJECTIVE

The global practice today is a work of collaboration between two offices to design three systems: typical floor/technical core, volumetrics/section and facade/ground floor/roof. Typical Floor: resolved by establishing a system that accepts both parking or office use indistinctly and supports successive reductions of its footprint without losing its operational capacity. The communications core has a technical backpack to ensure individual facilities for each tenant, directly ventilated through the facade, with the offices organized around it with a great flexibility of arrangements. Volumetrics/Section: results from the staggered stacking of four independent buildings. The first receives the city on the ground floor with premises for public services, above which six floors of parking are situated. The remaining three are prisms of different dimensions, each one being set back from the previous one to form terraces which share orientations and views of the sea and historic centre, working as small autonomous corporate buildings with their associated lobby and outdoor space. Facade: resolved with a curtain wall plemented with glass of different shades and transparencies to introduce a vibrant, random factor at its interpretation, not only from the combination of apparent opacity and reflection but also from the scalar ambiguity of the standard element, which does not coincide with any obvious horizontal line of the building. This prevents reading the programme from the outside and gives the inside a variety of levels of ledges of great spatial dynamism. The system naturally incorporates specific cases such as the large openings of the terraces, the air intakes of the installation platforms or the car park vents.

CONTEXT

How to design a landmark building in a neighbourhood of new tower blocks in the hands of the housing market which is least sensitive to innovation. The starting conditions are specific: to design an office building for the sale of variable surfaces according to the needs of purchasers, in which each user is offered independent technical services (air-conditioning, electricity, water supply, etc.), and where the parking must be above ground because of the impossibility of building basements. The physical context is new neighbourhood organized in large blocks surrounded by boulevards and divided into four plots that house four towers either for housing or offices with good views of the sea and the historic centre. Some of these quarter blocks are dedicated as public spaces, generally associated with facilities and commercial uses. The complex forms a strange modern utopia whose basic pattern is car use at all times by all social classes. The professional context offers the challenge of trying out an architectural style full of intentions in a heavily commercialized environment linked to real estate with everything that entails in terms of competitiveness, economy, timing and suitability for a business that is not exactly characterized by its sensitivity towards design and experimentation. The intellectual context contemplates on the global practice of the architecture and its necessary design as a collaboration between a local office and a foreign one that requires reconfiguring the conventional methods and their obsessive desire for absolute control in order to divide the work so that each office assumes a part which it directs and confronts with the other in an ongoing conversation.

PERFORMANCE

Architecture as Presence and Communication. With its volumetric and chromatic strategies, one of the smallest towers in its environment boasts its own personality. Contemplating the silhouette of the tower in its urban context, it is visibly more restrained than the other buildings on the skyline, reminiscent of the situation faced by the Seagram Building in relation to its eloquent neighbours. Here, it is also essential to give the building an attractive contact with the ground and a striking top. On contact with the ground, the tower is set back from its boundaries and gives the city a free public space. For the top, the proposal is for a common room for all residents with a 360º view of the ocean, the entry of ships in the Panama Canal and the mangroves surrounding the neighbourhood that have not yet been implemented. These details have been crucial to the commercial and professional success of the tower, which has earned a special reputation for its uniqueness and character despite its small size. The tower has the conditions of a competitive environment in terms of presence and communication, to implement a market product with added value that demonstrates the relevance of high quality architecture at all times. The sculptural presence of the facade, the colour performance of the car park finishes and the obsessive pursuit of balanced proportions are intended to give the project an “obvious intentionality”, an effort to show that under all conditions, architecture has answers that could hardly be produced by the direct and unreflected application of an apparently pragmatic set of ideas that rarely exceeds a minimum deployment of sensitivity and imagination.