World Bank Headquarters

Washington, D.C., USA The World Bank KressCox, Architect-of-Record Corporate, Government, Heritage + Historic, Interiors, Repositioning + Transformation 1.6 million ft2 / 149,000 m2 AIA National Chapter Honor Award (1998), 38th Annual Progressive Architecture Design Citation (1991)

The design for the World Bank Headquarters complex was the winning entry in an international competition, which drew 76 entrants from 26 countries. Occupying a site on Pennsylvania Avenue, in an area dominated by buildings from the 1960s and 1970s, the scheme incorporates buildings by Skidmore Owings & Merrill and Vincent Kling into a unified entity. Nearly one-third the size of the Pentagon, KPF’s design for the building has been called "a model of ingenuity, good design and precision engineering."

The building consists of a thirteen-story block surrounding a large covered courtyard. The existing structures comprise two of the three masonry wings that frame the project’s glazed north wing. Measuring 150 feet wide by 150 feet high (46 meters) and bathed in natural light, the courtyard represents the bank as a community, connecting and integrating the separate buildings and their diverse functions within one institution.

The shimmering glass exterior wall canted toward Pennsylvania Avenue rises from the ground to reveal the open-plan lobby, its adjacent public spaces, and the large central room encouraging entrance and creating connection between interior and exterior. Establishing a dialogue between parts of great weight and great lightness, these elements create a strong urban presence, while symbolizing the institution’s desire for transparency and accessibility for its constituents and the public at large.

Although Washington is a city of classical architecture, the design distances itself from that vocabulary because of its references to colonialism. Instead, the project is inspired by its context: it modifies and enhances the scale of Vincent Kling’s modern building. The horizontally striated glass façade along Pennsylvania Avenue counters the vertical gestures that derive from and connect to the existing structures.

The individual architectural elements of pre-cast concrete and white-painted aluminum have been detailed to a high level of abstraction; their recombination and juxtaposition provides depth and variety of expression. Within the central court itself are linear watercourses, monumental flights of steps, and pyramidal glazed pieces. On the roof, conference room canopies, masts, and the bowed courtyard skylight give form to the building’s programmatic elements and provide a distinctive profile.

”The new World Bank headquarters enlightens downtown Washington, D.C. with a new level of architectural sophistication... It elevates the standards of private-sector buildings in the city, reaffirming the role of Modernism in the capital." Raul Barreneche, Architecture, November 1997

Image 1 / 7 | © Timothy Hursley