I’ve had a soft spot for Modern architecture since I studied the Modern library in downtown Reno, Nevada. On my recent visit to Hat ‘n Boots Park south of Seattle, this bank caught my eye and I’ve been thinking about bank architecture ever since (just ask my brother, I kept getting distracted by banks during my recent visit to see him!).
There seems to be a large group of banks on the West Coast that, while not as eye-catching as this particular bank, are of the Modern architectural style and have similar characteristics (for example, vertical lines and subtle arches in reinforced concrete).
Banks in general may have more homogeneity than other building types; it is important that 1. when you see a bank, you know it’s a bank, and 2. it’s a space that makes you feel safe about leaving your money there (at least theoretically). Banks went through a strong Classical Revival period, emulating court houses and important public buildings with their grand entrances, columns, and porticos (these banks are still a common sight–the picture below is a bank in downtown Seattle, now dwarfed by skyscrapers).
The US Bank on Michigan Street in Georgetown is a Modern gem. This 1967 building is an oval in plan and consists only of bold vertical lines between the ground and its roofline. The exterior walls that are not dark windows are covered in dark tile, giving a similar visual effect while affording interior spaces that require window-less walls (perhaps spaces with higher security or utilities that want to be hidden).
Modern banks had blended into the landscape for me previously, but now I am seeing them everywhere and many have a certain intriguing quality that I’m starting to admire and appreciate. They are a cool and careful amalgamation of the Modern, almost Miesian, architecture and their Classical predecessors (just look at those columns!).