United Gulf Bank

The 12-story United Gulf Bank building is one of the region’s most iconic corporate edifices in the Middle East. SOM’s oft-imitated design drew inspiration from local culture and context, while pioneering the use of energy-saving strategies for high-rise office buildings in the region.

Located near the coast, SOM’s design draws on the rounded form of Bahrain’s traditional fishing boats. The bank's curved facade contains rows of deep-set exterior windows fitted with heat-absorbing green glass fins that help mitigate the intense Gulf sun. Transoms above the windows reflect and filter ambient light into the building, taking advantage of direct sunlight while mediating heat.

The building’s color scheme alludes to the natural palette of the region: the emerald-green waters of the Persian Gulf and pale beige sand of the desert. Similarly, the pre-cast concrete facade references the thick, heat-resistant walls and latticed sunscreens found in local architecture.

At the building’s entrance, a three-story arcade shields pedestrians from the sun, dust, and street noise as it welcomes them into a 12-story atrium. The bank’s richly detailed, Arabesque interior spaces are bridged by glass-block terraces. At night, hanging fixtures illuminate these terraces, and the structure glows with diffused light.