LOM Architecture and Design has completed the flagship headquarters building for the National Bank of Oman in Muscat, which was designed with local topography in mind.
Spanning 50,000m2 and stretching across nine floors, the centrally-located building is said to thoroughly reflect its context and respond to the local environment in its design.
The building’s envelope, for example, changes at each floor level to create a natural, stepped profile that rises from a rough-hewn base to a clean, distinctive parapet line. Comprising a load-bearing natural stone facade of terraces, the design reflects the terrain of the local mountainous landscape while the facade of the upper floors — formed from a vertical precast panel system — was inspired by the architecture of Omani forts, including Nizwa, Nakhal and Bahla.
Inspired by Oman’s wadi gorges, the bank’s atrium further delivers a series of dramatic internal spaces that balance public access with security requirements, creating a multi-functional facility that serves as both a staff resource and semi-public and event space.
Connecting the building to the surrounding landscape, generous planting overhangs various external terraces.
Featuring a boardroom suite, archiving facility, main vault, roof terrace, underground staff car parking, cafeteria and data centre, the National Bank of Oman can accommodate 800 people.
“In designing the building, we were challenged to create a new style of architecture, which would capture the essence of the Omani landscape and heritage without resorting to simple imitation,” said John Avery, director of LOM and lead architect on the project. “By working with a talented engineering team at Buro Happold and our local delivery architects IJAE, we were able to use the local Omani limestone… [to create] an abstract and sculptural building.”
LOM worked with Buro Happold to deliver a facade system that used traditional masonry techniques combined with a contemporary engineering approach, which created openings for deep ribbon windows and allowed for solar shading.
This system used a series of precast lintels to support massive hand-set stone courses suspended off the frame of the building. The facade has been configured to incorporate a seismic joint along each floor to allow different parts of the building to move independently in the event of a tremor or earthquake taking place. Additionally, the ground floor is established at 1.5m above grade as a precaution against flooding and the vault is incorporated below ground level in a secure self-contained structure that incorporates additional seismic protection.
According to LOM, the Muscat Municipality — the planning authority — are keen to see key buildings in Oman bearing a distinctive local identity, setting them apart from other prevailing architectural styles across the GCC. As a result, extensive glazing was deliberately avoided.
Instead, the design creates narrow, well-shaded windows that significantly reduce the cooling load of the building — a known design solution that can be found in the vernacular architecture of the region.
The landscaped area, completed by Murray Associates, around the building offers a semi-public space for staff and visitors. A large canopy shades the main entrance, the design of which references the complex geometries of the fronds of nearly 100 palm trees, which occupy the site and which, over time, will establish a dense, protective and natural shade.
“Integrating native planting into the facade and the surrounding public realm means that the building will evolve over time and become part of the future landscape of Muscat,” said Avery. “It has been a great privilege to work with the [National Bank of Oman] on a project that combines the best of traditional techniques with new and innovative technologies.”
The design of the new headquarters also encompasses many features designed to reduce energy consumption and drive down usage costs and carbon emissions.
Buro Happold undertook a preliminary audit of the predicted energy use of the building. A wide range of factors impact on the energy consumption, including how end-users work and how the building is maintained.
According to the architects, the audit estimated that when operational, the new building will consume approximately 65 percent of the electricity of comparable buildings in Muscat. Such measures taken to ensure the sustainability of the project include the use of LED lighting, the design of a facade that is sympathetic to the local environment, the integration of high-efficiency thermal wheels that allow heat recovery and the design of ductwork and risers to ensure low specific fan power.