ANZ Breathe: The Modular Bank Branch – Azure Magazine

A bank branch made from a modular kit of parts? Designed by Australia’s Breathe Architecture, the project dubbed “ANZ Breathe” is an innovative approach to both corporate sustainability and retail banking. Created for the Australian and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) — a multinational banking and financial services company based in Melbourne — the model has now been implemented at 40 branches across the country, with hundreds more planned.

Created from a simple set of adaptive parts — and likened to IKEA furniture — the flexibility of the ANZ Breathe design provides the ability for variation based on the environment and changing needs. Spaces can quickly be remodelled, transformed, replicated and scaled up or down across branches in a cost-effective, low-waste manner.

View of entrance to ANZ Breathe branch, showing a row of ATMs and notes of grenery

PHOTO: Tom Ross

Thanks to the use of adhesive-free joinery and simple, multi-functional plywood components, the structure can be easily transformed — from enclosed private rooms into more open spaces, and vice-versa — allowing every space to evolve. For example, the reusable plywood housings that frame ATMs are designed to be easily disassembled and reused as cash machines gradually become obsolete.

View of ATMs with greenery and seating in the foreground

PHOTO: Tom Ross

In lieu of glue, the ANZ Breathe parts are held together by simple screw fixings, nut-and-bolt systems and industrial press-studs. Additionally, the use of plywood rather than plasterboard reduces the number of materials that would end up in a landfill. Moreover, signage is printed directly onto the wooden furniture, reducing material costs.

A view inside an ANZ Breathe branch, showing the wayfinding signage (reading A, B, C and D) printed onto the plywood

PHOTO: Tom Ross

All materials used were also selected with life-cycle and embodied carbon in mind; this includes cork, FSC-certified timbers, recycled aluminum light fittings, and rubber flooring made from used car tires, with minimal presence of acrylics and plastics. All of the fabrics used are 100 per cent Australian wool and recyclable, and all timber elements were specified to be treated with Australian hardwood veneer with solid Australian hardwood used for custom-designed furnishings.

View inside a private meeting room

PHOTO: Kat Lu

Ample plant life introduces a biophilic quality to every ANZ Breathe branch. The plantings used require low levels of natural light to thrive, while the high volume of greenery naturally improves the air quality within the spaces. In conjunction with low (but warm) lighting and blonde plywood, it makes for a soothing yet energetic ambiance. And to further reduce energy costs, temperature settings have been calibrated to reflect average seasonal temperatures, rather than maintain a set temperature year-round.

Close-up detail shot of greenery atop a plywood wall

PHOTO: Kat Lu

The innovation of ANZ Breathe is as cultural as it is material. Traditionally, bank layouts have been conceived to reinforce a sense of security, often exhibiting solid, thick and heavy walls. In a digitally connected world, however, these fortified structures are no longer necessary. In fact, ANZ reported that only eight per cent of their customers rely solely on branches for everyday banking, minimizing the need for a large number of physical branches — and the need to build permanent, unchanging hubs for banking. With this in mind, ANZ Breathe was designed to both create a destination and fulfill a need, offering inviting interior spaces that are welcoming, warm, elegant and adaptable.

Inside a meeting room, featuring plywood wall finishes and a television screen

PHOTO: Tom Ross

As ANZ Breathe is poised to expand across Australia, the ANZ and Breathe teams are gathering post-occupancy data on the 40 branches that have been completed, helping further optimize the model. Although still a work in progress, the advancement towards sustainable design is a promising change in corporate design standards.

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