C1 Bank, by Rob Bowen Design Group

Rob Bowen talks about designing a very unusual bank in Miami

Project: C1 Bank, Miami

Design: Rob Bowen Design Group

Architecture: Lisa Wannemacher

Size: 343 sq m


How were you commissioned?

Our relationship with C1 Bank started by designing Trevor's personal residence. The success of that project led us to C1. Everything grew from there bringing us to where we are now having designed three signature branches, (Sarasota, Miami, corp HQ) and 20 plus branches that have been rebranded.


What was the brief from the client and how much were they involved?

From the very start, Trevor's main goal was to communicate who C1 Bank was in the context of where they were, the Wynwood Arts district. He wanted a fully operating branch during the day that would double as an events venue at night catering to dinner parties, fund raisers, art exhibits and even fashion shows with its very own cat walk. His vision was very clear from the beginning and it was through the intricate collaboration of client, architect and designer that this design was born.

How did this brief affect the materials and design choices made?
It was through Trevor's vision and direction that we were all allowed to break free from the 'box' and truly be creative with the design of this branch.

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How did your previous experience help you with this project?

Being fortunate enough to have designed previous branches for C1 Bank, we were all familiar with the company in terms of what they stood for not only in their financial values but in their design values as well. We knew we weren't dealing with your typical, traditional banking center. Having the experience of designing a few of their branches as well as their Head Quarters armed us with the tools we needed to make the Wynwood branch a truly unique space.

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Can you explain the layout of the project?

The layout of the project is very simple, it is the execution of the details that set it apart. From the very start, Trevor wanted a space that not only communicated who they are but also took into account the neighborhood and what they stood for. As you enter the building, you are greeted by tellers in a C shaped desk that sits beneath a larger than life Murano glass chandelier of deconstructed fluid shapes. This is where all regular transactions may take place. Behind the teller desk you are faced with a larger than life gilded frame currently containing Keith Haring pieces. This frame and its contents were an important part of the design where our nod to the Wynwood Arts district would occur. This wall will be a rotating art gallery for artists everywhere.

If clients are in need of a more private space, they may opt for the meeting pods which offer sound privacy while still being open to the rest of the main space. To the left of the teller desk is the conference room which houses Andy Warhol's Mick Jagger screen prints. This wall also serves as a rotating art wall.

To the left of the conference room we have a bookcase/ secret door which opens the way to the safety deposit box.

If you continue past the gilded frame which is also a sliding door, it leads the way to the rest rooms on your right which are wallpapered in a vintage theatre balcony scene where all eyes are on you. This is another unexpected yet fun touch which C1 bank is known for in their design.

Finally, across the restrooms is the state of the art catering kitchen outfitted by Trevor's friend, and Top Chef participant, chef Jeffrey Jew.

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What challenges did you face?

As with anything that has never been done before, it never comes without its challenges. Building a nearly 12'x12' frame definitely came with its bumps along the way. Designing it is only the begining, figuring out how to transport it to the site and put it back together seamlessly is another thing. The movable meeting pods where another element that with its uniqueness, came challenges. It took a team of architects, designers, mill workers, engineers, electricians and upholsterers to make those pods happen. It was a very intricate design that required a lot of problem solving skills. We are very fortunate to have an excellent team of creative and intelligent people who are used to having to reinvent the wheel. It is through these challenges that the strength of our team work shines through, making the impossible possible.

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What do you feel are the most unusual design elements in the project?

In a project such as this one, 'unusual' occurs everywhere you turn. Wether it's the oversized, bigger than life, gold baroque frame/barn door containing Keith Haring's Andy Mouse silkscreens or enetering the restrooms and literally feeling like all eyes are on you, unusual is around every corner. Another unusual element is the lack of teller lines and in its place is a custom C shaped teller desk which doubles as a bar during evening events. Then 8x8 (outdoor) movable meeting pods are yet another unusual element sitting on wheels allowing for these pods to move outside and serve as VIP booths during parties. The accordion store front doors allow the entire front of the bank to bring the outside in. And even while the bank is closed, it still manages to captures people's attention with the intricate Mission: Impossible-inspired light display.


How do you think this project is pushing design forward - what makes it special?

With Trevor's direction and vision, we have taken your grandfather's bank and turned it upside down. All rules of how a bank 'should' look like are thrown out the window and a new vision of the banking experience is born. We have taken a conventional meeting room and put it on wheels in the form of movable pods, filled with color and life symbolizing the exciting things that are happening here. The theme continues everywhere you turn, wether it's the secret door / bookcase that leads to the safety deposit box or our Mad Hatter Tea Party inspired conference room, everything is not quite what it "should" be. Thinking of how to design a space that is not only funtional but multi-purpose and unlike anything you've ever seen in a bank, like our teller stations which double as a bar during events, really forces you to think outside of the box. We try to recreate our own rules and shake up the box, breathing new life into what is otherwise a very tradtional field. As designers we have been very fortunate to work for Trevor who inspires us to create beyond what has already done. Having this kind of design freedom is a designers dream come true.


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