Banking it

For their first project in Africa, a Moroccan bank, Foster + Partners designed a modular, energy efficient system.

Architecture studio Foster + Partners recently completed the first regional headquarter branches for Moroccan bank BMCE in Rabat and Casablanca. This marks the studio’s first project in Africa.

The branches were all designed to be energy efficient and to use locally-sourced materials and craftsmanship as far as possible. The interiors are contemporary and encased by a traditional, energy efficient exterior based on a modular system.

While the overall design remains the same for all the branches, colour and scale is adapted to suit the given location. A concrete frame forms the main foundation of each bank branch with an entrance colonnade and a collection of bays which are repeated on a modular grid. Glazed panels and stainless steel screens enclose the grid while also supplying the necessary shade and security. The stainless steel is of a variety that does not heat up in the sun and is curved to create geometric designs reminiscent of Islamic patterns.

The flagship BMCE branches all have an electricity-free cooling system, an earth tube. This device draws fresh air into an empty pipe that encircles the building underground where it is naturally cooled before being released into the building.

The dome structure is reference to the design of new schools in Morocco, which were built with help from BMCE. The dome interiors are covered in tadelakt, a local plaster technique while the exterior boasts traditional ceramic tiles.