Case Study

Tompkins Financial corporate Headquarters

What was HOLT asked to do by the client? 

  • Create a headquarters building that brought 300 employees from over 30 Ithaca locations into downtown Ithaca.
  • Design a ground floor flagship retail banking space
  • Build on an existing downtown site owned by the bank.

What were the agreed goals of the project?

  • Consolidate all administrative functions into one high-rise building that would support connectivity and engagement between employees.
  • Assimilate a new building into a highly visible and established downtown location.
  • Support the strong company brand with a unique and iconic building.

How did the project address these goals?

Goal - Consolidate all administrative functions into one high-rise building that would support connectivity and engagement among employees - The project began with an extensive programming process involving 17 separate departments, each with their own strategic plans, growth projections, and organizational structures.  The architects led program interviews to determine current and future space needs, which departments could share services, and which would benefit from planned adjacencies.  Information from the interviews was transformed into a base space program which was layered with each department’s growth projections, and then evaluated and refined by Tompkins’ Senior Leadership. This programming process was essential in determining the right proportion of cellular to open space, as well as size and location of offices, conference rooms and shared space.

Goal - Assimilate a new building into a high visibility location & support the strong company brand with a unique and iconic building - The successful design of this new, highly-visible structure stemmed from an intense analysis of the surrounding environment to form exterior design drivers that reflect the historical and conventional brick and stone of the existing downtown fabric.

The implementation of light and dark elements balance traditional exterior materials with contemporary forms to create a unique and iconic building that assimilates seamlessly into Ithaca’s downtown. This delicate symmetry of materiality and form not only extends the cohesiveness of the city center but also helps create an aesthetic that connects Ithaca’s rich history with its innovative future.

How did you address the design problem(s)?

Balance tradition with innovation. Internally, one of the greatest challenges was to capture the essence of 180 years of banking tradition in a new, state-of-the-art facility. This was achieved by blending the traditional bank aesthetic with bright open spaces, floor-to-ceiling view glass windows, advanced interactive technology, contemporary amenities, and many sustainable elements.  The new Tompkins Financial building honors and respects the Ithaca community and looks like it has been part of the  urban landscape for some time.

Access to natural light. Designing a high-rise building with a fairly large footprint increases the difficulty with bringing natural light deep into the structure. The solution to overcome this challenge was in the strategic layout of the floors. The team intentionally balanced the perimeter spaces between private offices and open space to allow for natural light to penetrate deep into the core of each floor.

Provide a full retail banking space within a tight footprint. Tompkins Financial’s building footprint was pushing the boundaries of the site leaving little room for expanding the footprint. This made planning the retail bank component challenging, as it could not expand horizontally. The solution to maintain retail bank program planned for the ground floor was to separate the ground floor program into two floors but keep them connected through a central atrium. The atrium not only allowed for the program to maintain functionality in two floors, it also created monumentality in the banking hall.

How does the architecture of your project affect the community?

Tompkins’ new headquarters building consolidates 300 Ithaca area employees together in one location. This density greatly impacts the downtown community by extending the cohesiveness of the city center and bringing more life and vitality to the area’s shops, restaurants, and green space. It also impacts the client’s internal community, in essence creating a more unified collective within the building itself.

Contact Steve Hugo, AIA at 607-273-7600 or email for more information.