Westpac's flagship branch connects with nature in the heart of the city

Banks are increasingly cluing onto the importance of the customer experience, and Westpac’s signature branch on Queen St is a prime example

Banks are increasingly cottoning onto the importance of the customer experience, and Westpac’s signature store at 79 Queen Street (which opened late last year) is a prime example.

As well as a café and meeting spaces, the branch offers iPads, tablets and a technology help zone for online and mobile banking. And the storefront literally lights up Queen Street with ever-changing Auckland foreshore imagery over 14 screens.

Context Architects designed the instore, referencing nature at as many points as possible. A wave ceiling spirals across the branch pulling customers from the front to the back. The wharf is where Westpac staff connect with customers and a flock of red birds (recreated as Westpac ‘W’s)  hover over meeting spaces at the back. Amid the birds are 208 white doves – each representing every one of Westpac’s branches throughout New Zealand.

“The branch sits on the threshold of Auckland’s original foreshore, and the concept is driven from Aucklanders’ love of beaches and waterfront,” says Context Architects’ head of retail and interiors Natalie Snowden.

“In design terms, you cross the edge of the foreshore into the branch, onto a board walk or wharf that leads you in.  A wave-inspired ceiling wraps around the interior and literally draws you through the branch experience.”

She says the design is contrary to what most people associate with banking.

 “By opening up the entire front of house and making nothing ‘off limits’, it invites customers in and lets them ‘own’ the space they are in,” says Snowden.

The LED screens (provided by Eyemagnet) rotate visual content based around Auckland’s waterfront connection and Westpac’s own brand messages, from the Westpac Rescue helicopter in action to the dramatic cliffs off Piha and the archetypal Christmas Pohutakawa beach scene. Fun fact: the Good Night Kiwi also comes up at night with community safety messages for Aucklanders out on the town at night, playing up the 'surprise and delight' factor.

But the star of the show? It's got to be the 45,000 piece Lego helicopter, the largest Lego model in New Zealand

Retail Dimension built the helicopter, assigning three designers over 50 days to complete the project.

It's incredibly complex, due to the 3D curves, and weighs in at 400kg. It can seat three kids across the cockpit and features a rotating chopper blade as well as working lights both internally and externally. The cockpit graphics and joysticks are based on photos of the real Westpac chopper and configured to imitate them as closely as possible.

Retail Dimension was also responsible for all signs, graphics and the café caravan – director Kyle Pennell says the caravan is a Kiwi icon.

“It symbolises all the nostalgic feelings we associate with beach holidays, and is totally fitting for the signature branch.”