Samba’s new headquarters provides a bold symbol for the bank and a highly flexible design to enable future expansion. The 40-storey tower is located at the heart of FinancialPlaza, the centrepiece of Riyadh’s new King Abdullah Financial District – a major new commercial quarter almost three times the size of London’s CanaryWharf. Surrounded by a tightly grouped cluster of towers, the innovative three-dimensional façade gives the building a distinctive presence while reducing energy and maintenance demands. In total, the scheme provides one million square foot of office accommodation above ground, in addition to basement retail levels that connect to the district-wide mall.
The building is diamond-shaped on plan and centred on a top-lit, full building height atrium. A raised canopy protects the atrium from direct sunlight, and indirect light is reflected deep into the office floor plates by its tessellated glass interior. The northern elevation is punctuated by three four-storey sky gardens, which encourage social interaction and allow daylight to reach the atrium. The spaces can also function as individual reception areas to support multiple tenancies if required. The tower employs a cool, crisp palette of colours and materials, inside and out, with a crystalline atrium, jewel-like turquoise lift cars and a richly textured façade made up of triangulated glass panels. Their design responds to the complex challenge of Riyadh’s climate, where temperatures range from zero degrees in winter to the extreme, dry heat of summer and occasional heavy rains. Each panel is made up of facets, with opaque canopy panels and two different types of high performance reflective glass.
The uppermost floor houses a dramatic open-plan suite, incorporating two majlis and executive spaces with panoramic city views, and it is linked by a grand stair to the executive level below. A podium ‘branch’ building annexed to the lower five floors of the tower contains customer banking facilities. The podium’s roof aligns with the restaurant level to form its open-air seating terrace and also includes a dedicated prayer room within a large pavilion. The tower is topped by a 70-metre high spire, which is illuminated at night as a landmark for Samba. The spire also acts as a radiator, capturing cooling northerly breezes and using water to cool the roof-mounted array of advanced photovoltaic panels, thus enhancing their efficiency. To encourage walking and the use of public transport, the scheme has a low ratio of parking spaces compared to an equivalent office development in Riyadh, and a covered pedestrian walkway extends from the first floor to join the network of shaded routes that bisects the district.