Design Award Entries

Simmons Banking Pavilion

A new banking center for a growing regional bank positions itself as a glass pavilion sculpted lightly in the site, a strong figure among the monotony of typical interstate retail that while striking in form coalesces seamlessly with the moody skies and slow reflective nature of the southeast Arkansas, where the pines meet the Mississippi Delta.

Project Statement

Founded in 1903 in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Simmons Bank now serves five surrounding southern region states. Even with this growth, the bank has never forgotten its roots, still headquartered in Pine Bluff and a major presence in Little Rock, just 45 minutes away. To ensure those roots remain strong, Simmons set out to replace aging facilities, first in the bedroom community of White Hall on the outskirts of Pine Bluff on the interstate connecting to Little Rock, where the namesake pine forests meet the Mississippi Delta.

Simmons wanted a building that was open visually, honest in function, and unique to the region, and easy for customers to understand and navigate. Contrary to preconceived ideas about financial institutions, we knew Simmons’ desire for a quintessential regionalism need not reflect clichéd interpretations from other banks of comfortable “homes” with hipped roofs, classic columns and pediments that supposedly say regional, but are really mired in a southern past. They had two requirements: make the building design their sign, meaning displaying their name prominently in the architecture, and incorporate their signature LED lights that have become a hallmark of their larger buildings in the skyline of Little Rock.

With this being our first new building for Simmons, we spent the time to research and understanding their values…how the bank connects with people of this region. Our solution is a uniquely personal architecture utilizing Delta traits like deep shades, covered porches, and slatted screens, yet interpreted in a modern aesthetic reflective of the means and methods of modern banking, comfortable and open to all customers from the small farmer to the corporate executive. Simmons Bank’s programmatic needs generated a diagram of two distinct parallel forms, shifted to open views and accept light, and articulated by function: void and solid, glass and brick, public and private. Public spaces are wrapped in glass under a sculpted roof that lifts above the more solid private programs beyond. A brick datum wall defines the separation of public and private forms and frames that interaction. Subtle inspiration for building forms was drawn from field equipment and Delta agrarian structures, with clerestories lifting toward the sky and sunshade blades like barn slats supported on an exposed structure pulled away from the building to reduce heat gain and glare. While functional for shade by day, the blades have integral lights within, transforming from shade to light by night. Instead of the normal running strips of lights along building edges, a key feature of the building that meets Simmons’ two main wishes is a glass light monolith grounded in this place and reaching to the sky. The backlit glass, in conjunction with the blades, offers lighting opportunities to celebrate holidays and civic events as a gift to the community...and announcing Simmons Bank’s continued commitment to home.