The winning entry in an international competition, which drew 76 entrants from 26 countries, KPF’s design for the World Bank Headquarters befits the aspirations of an internationally important organization. Winner of three AIA awards, the scheme has been called “a model of ingenuity, good design and precision engineering.”
The scheme occupies a site on Pennsylvania Avenue, and creates a unified entity by incorporating existing buildings by Skidmore Owings & Merrill and Vincent King. The building consists of a 13-story block surrounding a large covered courtyard. Bathed in natural light, the 150-foot-wide courtyard represents the bank as a community, connecting and integrating the separate buildings and their diverse functions within one institution. Within the central court are linear watercourses, monumental flights of steps, and pyramidal glazed pieces.
The design takes inspiration from its context, enhancing the scale of Vincent King’s modern building while breaking from Washington’s classical vocabulary of architecture and its colonial references. The horizontally striated glass façade counters the vertical gestures that derive from and connect to the existing structures. The material palette of glass, pre-cast concrete, and white-painted aluminium establishes a dialogue between weight and lightness, creating depth and variety of expression. The result is a strong urban presence and a symbol of the World Bank’s commitment to transparency and accessibility.