Transaction Space: Architecture, Banking, Law, and Technology

By Olga Pantelidou

As a bank’s space is now rarely defined by a single building, a typical financial institution conducts business within multiple locations distributed across a nation or the globe. Through an iterative process over time, banks inadvertently and spontaneously design their architectural space by synthesizing spatial entities designed by architects, prompted by technology, and directed by banking law into a functioning whole. The result is a “transaction space” that cannot be fully described through the summation of the individual physical parts. For a bank however, it is not merely a matter of spatial organization through multiple locations, but also the inclusion of siteless spaces, like mobile offices, ATM’s and websites. These disparate spatial resources are then brought into a cohesive whole by the active connections, material or immaterial, between them.

Despite its importance and pervasiveness in daily life, the architecture of this expanded bank space remains unstudied. This thesis addresses a conceptualization of this space comprised of material and immaterial, sited and siteless spaces, and the intervening connections, as it responds to the influences of banking law and technology at various scales of the social landscape. It seeks to understand the spatial dimensions in which a bank operates through a historical analysis of the way the above factors interweave with the evolution of banking architecture.

This banking space is approached as it develops through the addition of new spatial entities, such as branches, office buildings, ATMs, online banking and in-store branches, that build upon existing conditions, through the separate case studies of four banks. Irwin Union Bank, Bank of America, Citibank and Wells Fargo were chosen for their catalytic innovations within the global industry, as each was the first to develop and explore the “transactive” spatiality of an emerging technology: the modernist building, the automated book keeping system, the ATM, and online banking respectively.