A clockwork precision of detail distinguishes HSBC Private Bank’s new headquarters in Geneva

Yesterday evening, Make’s HSBC Quai des Bergues project took home ‘Global Project of the Year’ at the esteemed FX International Interior Design Awards 2014. Outperforming stiff competition from the likes of HOK and GA Design International, the judges praised the project as: “a beautiful less-is-more approach to architecture and interiors”.

On a prime lake-front setting on Geneva’s historic Quai des Bergues, sits a new state of the art Front Office for HSBC Private Bank. The 16,300m2 building, designed by Make Architects, unites five of the bank’s Geneva offices and delivers a spacious workplace for 650 staff, premium client meeting and dining facilities, and a trading floor – all with views of the River Rhone, Lake Geneva and the Old Town.


The scheme required the restoration and consolidation of seven historic, structurally independent buildings into one new building, comprising two basement levels, a ground floor level, and seven floors. A new, single atrium, formed from the existing central courtyards, runs up the building and internally links together the main elements of the scheme.

The works retained important historical elements and details of the existing site, as interspersing the city’s heritage with the bank’s position as a major international player was central to the design brief. As Florian Frotscher, Make partner and project lead architect, states: “The opportunity to revive the historic buildings rather than demolish them, and the need to integrate modern functions, required an architectural language of careful consideration and a balance of constraints with opportunities.”

The buildings are unified by the creation of a regular roof geometry across the two upper floors, clad in traditional tiles in line with the heritage requirements. Fully glazed dormer units, a first for Geneva, add a striking but discreet contemporary element to the roof. A natural stone ground floor façade replaces the previous 1960s glass fronts and the addition of metal canopies creates a contemporary interpretation of the traditional canopy theme and complements the roofline of the new dormer windows.

The architectural concept of balance continues into the interior. The necessity for confidentiality in the bank determined a design that both interlinked the staff and client facilities and conversely kept the two worlds apart. A light, natural oak signifies the predominantly open-plan staff areas, whilst darker American walnut prevails in the reception areas, meeting rooms and private dining rooms. Clients can choose to have complete privacy, should they wish, through the use of their own entrance to the building and dedicated lifts, which transport them direct to the client facilities.

A sense of enclosure has been achieved in each of the meeting and dining rooms where the internal wall finish curves at the junction of roof and wall. This is reflected in the horizontal joinery ‘strata’ elements running along the corridor walls and spilling into each of the meeting and dining rooms; its form becomes a contemporary re-interpretation of traditional wood panelling, and incorporates shelving, storage and digital displays.

In line with Swiss energy regulations, it was important to consider sustainability measures in the overall scheme and in relation to the architectural themes. The innovative use of lake water to cool the building is juxtaposed with the craftsmanship applied to the use of locally-sourced, natural materials in all the main spaces.

HSBC Quai des Bergues was completed in collaboration with local architects Itten Brechbühl SA in spring 2014. It becomes Make’s second HSBC project following the successful delivery of HSBC Private Bank’s Back Office at Blandonnet in 2010.

Green atrium wall in HSBC Quai des Bergues.
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