The new AIB Bankcentre in Ballsbridge, Dublin
AIB, Allied Irish Banks Limited, was created in 1966 through the merger of three independent Irish banks: Provincial Bank, Royal Bank and Munster and Leinster, all founded in the nineteenth century. When the Group’s Headquarters located in Ballsbridge (the Dublin suburb named after the old bridge over the River Dodder on the south side of town) proved inadequate, AIB launched an international competition of ideas for the expansion project. The competition focused on two major aspects: the anticipated doubling of the number of employees from 2,000 to 4,000 and integration of the existing and new buildings to create a single functional complex. In 2003 Group announced the winner as RKD Architects, the same firm that in the early seventies had already designed the 40,000 square metres of the original AIB Bankcentre, perhaps Ireland’s first campus-style business complex. The key to RKD’s expansion plan was the construction of an additional 36,000 square metres (total cost 130 million euro) centred around a new covered atrium that extends to a height of six storeys, the largest ever built in Ireland. The atrium serves as a central hub for the entire complex and a crucial intersection point for all the connections between the old and new offices, promoting greater social interaction and more effective integration among employees. Its unique and iconic curved glass roof, instantly recognisable from a distance, has now taken its rightful place amongst the city’s landmarks. The new pedestrian plaza and the renovation of the entrance hall have revitalised the old Bankcentre, reinforcing the brand image and creating an access to the bank that is more attractive to visitors. Abundant natural light enters the new building via the completely glass-panelled facades and roof, while the open plan office layout ensures that sufficient light reaches all employees wherever they are located. The finishes consist of predominantly light, neutral colours. For the main atrium flooring and the floor and wall coverings in the toilets, the designers chose Impronta Ceramiche’s Urbana porcelain tile collection for its technical characteristics, its large sizes and its bright, luminous colours. At the same time the neutral tones used enhance and complement the interiors. Clean contemporary styling characterises every architectural detail, while the modern furnishing is complemented by timeless classic pieces that convey a sense of lasting quality. As for the utilities, in close agreement with the engineers RHD opted for the use of passive chilled beams, advanced ventilation systems, a high-performance façade and all the technologies required to achieve an extremely modern complex. The extreme care with which the work site was organised enabled banking operations to be carried on without even a day’s interruption.