In 1986, the Bank of Hawaii purchased a four-story building with two sub-floor levels in Agana, Guam. Originally built in 1973, the building was purchased to house the Bank’s primary Micronesian branch, as well as several non-bank related tenants. As the Bank of Hawaii’s presence grew in Micronesia, so did their facility requirements. By 1995, the branch had become the hub for all of the Bank’s branches in Micronesia. The Agana facility was now the “headquarters” for operations, facilities, and branches as far away as Palau, Yap, and Maruju. Rapid growth, the need for state of the art communication capabilities, a diversified client base, new building and seismic codes, and an outdated infrastructure all became pressing issues for the aging concrete structure.
The biggest challenge for this project was its shear magnitude: too many people with a magnitude of different requirements intertwined with the dynamics of the Bank’s operational requirements. Ferraro Choi solved a majority of these issues through modularity. For example, the Bank’s space standards were first studied and redefined into four standard workstation sizes. This became a workable and realistic model that accommodated a variety of the users’ diversified needs, eliminating the need to reinvent new stations for every job description or staff change. Other design elements addressing standards and modularity include pre-wired modular walls and systems furniture (used also for the teller lines). To allow flexible movement of workstations, grid pattern locations of VAV (variable air volume air conditioning) boxes, and continuous indirect lighting system was used throughout. Work nodes, such as common work areas and conferencing centers were also increased in number and strategically interspersed to enhance teamwork and work efficiency. Employee safety was improved with the addition of a building fire sprinkler and alarm system, and a building management control system.
Once the program requirements were given definition, the design process focused next on the Bank’s cultural awareness. Discussions were held with several islanders and their “cultural elders,” and studies pursued into local island literature and legends. The resulting design palette, finishes, textures, as well as shapes and volumes found within the space are respectful of the indigenous Chamorro culture. For example, the volume on the second floor main banking hall, which was hidden for 20 years with 9′ ceilings, provided a great design opportunity. By exposing the previously hidden volume and existing architecture, Ferraro Choi created a new grand “banking hall,” that referenced the island theme with an “ocean to sky” sense of space. Within this hall representing tropical islands in an ocean setting are six-18′ palms in 5′ high terracotta pots set on a custom green lauhala-weaved carpet. Column surrounds within this hall and a curved elevator lobby wall are representational of native Chamorro canoe sails. Commissioned to local artist Sol Bidaure, a grand mural depicting Chamorro lifestyle, history, and legends elegantly finishes off the space. Outfitted with specialty lighting and sound systems, the grand banking hall also addresses the Owner’s requirements for an area not only suitable for banking but for large-scale community functions as well.
Beyond the main banking hall, specific cultural design elements native to the region continue to flow throughout the project. For example, brightly-colored textured walls, representational of stone formations and colors found in the Guam landscape are used at the entry and throughout the project. The entry tile walls are also sprinkled with accents of clear glass navigational theme tiles. Ocean-colored stone flooring is used throughout main banking hall and common areas. Fabrics representing images and textures consistent with Chamorro prints and colors, but with modern interpretation were integrated into the furniture finishes.
In the end, the results more than met everyone’s expectations. The program was met, the construction was completed ahead of schedule and on budget, and the users and Bank clients have expressed pride in their newly renovated environment.