(In)Corporate Culture, Through The Art Of Architecture

Text | Maria Aslam Visuals Courtesy | Isbah Hassan & Associates
Project Details
Project: UBL Regional Head Quarters
Location: Jail Road, Lahore 

Area: 185000 sqft  

Consultant: Isbah Hassan & Associates  

Contractor: Mughal Construction  

Year of completion: 2018
The Corporate culture especially the banking sector is a segment of building environments that has time immemorial been conscious of the buildings that they are housed in and the interior environment that they inhabit. From the Medici family of Italian Bankers of the 14th century that went on to spread throughout the entire of Europe from the city of Florence; to the Headquarters of Citibank for example, banking sector edifices are forever making a statement of prominence through the art of architecture. Similarly, when UBL acquired a vantage plot in Lahore, the same ideology was set in motion. 

The building sited on Jail Road, Lahore – a stone’s throw away from the famous Canal Road is visible from many adjacent arteries and by its stature and architecture cannot be missed. The setback allows the building the magnificent entrance approach from the road The Edwardian character of the building was emphasized by the client that desired that such a structure be envisaged that embodies Lahore’s rich heritage of historical buildings. In response to the banks ideology the architect implemented the post-colonial stylization deduced from the client’s desire of a building reminiscent of Edwardian architecture with an expansive architectural and interior landscape, Isbah Hassan & Associates took on the task to design the Head Office for UBL, Lahore that was inaugurated in the first quarter of 2018. It is during the 17th and 18th century that Edwardian architecture is characterized after Baroque period. 

Though highly symmetrical with a high point of axis it is less ornate, domed rooftop pavilions with an emphasis on central tower like element creating a lively rooftop and a strong silhouette. In the interiors Edwardian characteristics are reflective on the pattern making that is less complex with less clutter in ornamentation, it is a derivative of less is more in ornamentation, detailing and pattern making. 

Deducing the potential vocabulary of Edwardian architecture as 19th century European architecture, the design was adapted to make the form relevant for today. The multistory building is prefaced by a looming façade and stairs cascading both downwards, to a courtyard in the lower ground, and upwards into the building. The staircase acts as a pivotal node not just in the planning of the spatial arrangement but also tethers the interior expanse of the double height space with the glory akin to the past edifices that the client desired to recreate The courtyard doubles as an open-air corridor, running from end to end of the Ground floor of the building Detail of glass chandelier at the main lobby 2020 front face of the building, reminiscent of a moat at the entrance of a castle. The space is spotted with singular trees surrounded by shrubbery while white stone patterns in geometric cuts embellish the grass, creating a favorable balance of hard- and soft-scaping. 

Lining the staircase are balustrades that continue upwards to the arched doorway and around the terrace of the building. The main doorway opens onto the ground floor of the building with similarly arched floor length windows, giving the building a palatial look. The aura of the entry is continuous as one is transported to the interior enclave. The vertical circulatory nexus is the axis and the pivot of the building where the spaces are arranged around the circular stairwell as per the requirements of each floor. The flooring resonates with the circular pattern and reinforces the stairwell significance and importance in the plan that shapes itself at all levels. Inside, a contemporized version of imposing European architecture is employed.  

The central rotunda is highlighted with the classical marble inlay flooring pattern, and the ceiling coffered detailing in the double height spaces exudes the power of architecture of Edwardian era. The column details, the central hanging crystal chandelier are all creations of the classical times. A time of exuberance, aura, might and power that are reflective of a banking environment. In contrast with the grandeur of the main lobby, other areas utilize a more contemporary form of architecture while still maintaining the elegance associated with the overall traditional vocabulary. 

The primary palette of golds and beiges accentuates the sophistication of the design in boardrooms and other executive spaces, while communal areas include dark gray as a contrasting element, tempering the atmosphere. This unique postcolonial stylization involves adapting the more rigid and ostentatious European architecture of the 19th century to the contemporary setting of postmodern Lahore, blending the building into the architectural landscape. Rising more then 125 feet, this 9 storey building features state of the art facility and cutting-edge technology housed in this post-colonial Edwardian structure of the 21st century. The silhouette stands out amongst the contemporary neighborhood with structures of glass and concrete and is a duality reminiscent of the bygone eras in one of the technologically advanced financial hub of the country.

Maria Aslam, is a prolific writer, architectural historian, and environmental activist, working in the fields of interior design, architecture, and heritage conservation. As the founder and editor-in-chief of ADA Magazine, she has pioneered the ADA Awards, the first of its kind, in the disciplines of Architecture, Design, and Art. Alongside her architectural and interior design practice, ArchWorks, she is the chairperson of Pakistan’s Institute of Interior Designers.

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