Alterna Savings Flagship Branch 112 Kent Street, Ottawa, ON
Friday 14 Jun 2013


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Alterna Savings is a credit union with roots dating back a century in Canada. Chmiel Architects was selected as their creative partner to develop the design of their new flagship branch, located in downtown Ottawa. This was an important opportunity to reinvigorate their brand, and attract new membership. It was essential that the new space reflect Alterna's values of "people first", excellence and integrity. Following a visioning session, it was determined that the new branch had to be warm and inviting, but also vibrant, fresh, and stimulating. To achieve this, the counterpoint of materials such wood, glass, and quartz as well as linear and curved geometries, create a modern yet humanistic look and feel. The high ceilings of a traditional banking hall are also recalled in this project, and are expressed in the form of a grid of circular acoustical clouds which provide a strong graphic aesthetic, as well as optimum acoustic levels.

One challenge with this project was that of space. The new branch was replacing an old one which was 30% larger. Working with Alterna, the space program was scrutinized and underutilized elements were eliminated or reduced to ensure that the resulting design was not compromised due to over-programming of the available space. A strategy of making elements perform multiple uses, in addition to a generous use of glass performed a big part in maximizing the use of the space. For example, the main banking hall is equipped with reconfigurable lounge seating and serves as a waiting area, reception area for events, or for seminars. The main boardroom also serves as a staff meeting room, lunch room, and community room for use by members. The end result is that staff and members alike perceive the new space to be actually larger than the old one.

Finally, sustainability was an important driver for the project, which features low VOC materials throughout, LED lighting, low flow fixtures, floor to ceiling glazing to maximize daylight penetration, and the use of wood sourced from logs reclaimed from the bottom of the Ottawa River, a remnant of the logging industry which ended in 1900.