Banks aren’t exactly at the leading edge of urban design. Consider, for example, the new Key Bank in Hollywood– a big box franchise, with plenty of faux trimmings. The suburban style remodel of the Advantis Credit Union on SE 30th and Belmont isn’t much better.
The strip mall parking lots are especially irritating—especially in Belmont/Sunnyside, one of the city’s most pedestrian friendly neighborhoods. One strolls down Belmont, enjoying the coffee shops, the stores, the restaurants lining the sidewalk, only to practically fall into the Advantis curb cut.
Banks—of all buildings– should be seamlessly integrated into neighborhood design. After all, financial institutions exist to help grow local communities–but in and of themselves contain nothing of tangible value. And given the damage (many) banks have inflicted in recent years, one would expect new branches to melt right into the urban fabric.
But instead, stand-alone structures such as Hollywood’s Key branch announce themselves portentously as THE BANK, as if to remind us of the god-like roles cash, debt, and equity assume in American life.
So here’s a call for a bank or credit union branch that is less of an architectural disappointment—a sleek, intimately scaled project that is physically connected to the community enterprises it supports. Umpqua bank branches move in that direction, although the “neighborhood store” tag is just a bit too self-conscious for my taste.
On another note: What does a 21st century consumer actually do at a bank? I conduct most of my banking online, and get actual cash from a machine. And one shouldn’t have to DRIVE to a local branch. Lack of money may be a heavy load to bear, but cash itself is weightless. Stuff a wad of bills—or debit card–into your wallet, then just walk away, into the sea of capital that is the city.