2019 MCA Chairman’s Awards

The Metal Construction Association (MCA) has recognized North America's most outstanding metal construction projects of 2019. This year's judging panel of distinguished architects included James Theimer, principal architect, Trilogy Architecture, Redding, Calif.; Mark Roddy, lecturer in the department of design, California State University, Sacramento; and Erik Mehlman, partner and design lead at BuildSense | Architecture + Construction, Durham, N.C.

Six projects triumph with innovative use of metal

By Paul Deffenbaugh

Gnw Pavilion Kps Trade Contractor Award 1

The Chairman’s Awards go to the most exceptional buildings involving MCA member companies. The criteria include overall appearance, significance of metal in the project, innovative use of metal and the role of metal in achieving project objectives. Winners in six categories were announced at MCA’s Winter Meeting Awards Dinner in Palm Springs, Calif., on January 14.

Overall Excellence and Commercial/Industrial

Great Northern Way Pavilion, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

The Great Northern Way Pavilion is relatively small but stunning architectural achievement that makes a statement like no other structure in the Vancouver. The building is formed by a series of curving petals that cascade from an oculus at the roof down to the pedestrian level. The inner set of petals contains the glazing, while the outer set of petals are freestanding to the ground.

The design includes a series of overlapping tiles to follow and complement the curvilinear nature of the building—a difficult task because standard wall and roofing methods would not work well. A custom metal composite material (MCM) wall tile system provides a high-performance aluminum rainscreen while the specialty finish, a colorshifting red, responds to the ever-changing natural light.

“In terms of its sculptural and architectural quality, presence, articulation and detailing, this project comes together wonderfully in every component,” Mehlman remarks.

Education—Colleges and Universities

Engineering & Computer Science West, University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, Texas

The new 206,000-square-foot building features handson learning environments for engineering education, advanced research laboratories, and showpiece spaces for industry partnership. A mix of high-bay, wet- and dry-labs supports three specialty research areas: energy, robotics and nano-bio, with additional labs for core researchers. Specialized instructional lab spaces facilitate undergraduate courses along with classrooms ranging from 30 to 300 seats. The new building facilitates expanding enrollment, additional faculty, more degrees, improved graduation rates and increased research funding.

Outdoor spaces extend building life to the immediate site and the larger university campus, creating a collective hub for students. The simple, efficient U-shape accommodates zoning in three connected bars while creating a large-scale take on the traditional Texas courtyard with breezeways and breathable shade trellises. Student workspaces open onto the courtyard for additional workspace and exhibition with overlooking balconies.

Metal was selected for its durability, versatility, honesty of expression, recycled content, and associations with the mechanical engineering discipline and industries. The material’s ratio of strength and durability to weight allowed reductions in exterior wall backup and primary building structure, resulting in less material, lower embodied energy and a smaller footprint.


Menil Drawing Institute, Houston

The Menil Drawing Institute (MDI) honors the legacy of intimacy and direct engagement with art that characterizes the Menil campus. This new institute dedicated to drawings, the first of its kind in the United States, assumes a scale between house and museum with a low-lying, elongated profile that integrates with the surrounding neighborhood.

The MDI is composed of a series of buildings and courtyards unified by a white plate-steel roof that extends and hovers over the landscape. The roof defines two entry courtyards to the east and west. Within the courtyards, the underlying folds of the roof plane embrace the tree canopies, creating a shaded, contemplative atmosphere that prepares museum goers for the lower light levels within. The roof serves as a reflective surface for the shadows of the trees and contrasts with the deep grey cedar planks that clad the building.

Steel was selected for its ability to maintain its strength at a very fine width and its reflective qualities. The roof and the façade, which resembles a folded piece of paper, unify the building while maintaining a light, airy presence.

“This is an evocative building,” remarks Mehlman. “Beautiful, elegant, very simple.”


Calgary Public Library, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

With 240,000 square feet of functional, flexible and beautifully designed space, the New Calgary Central Library houses 450,000 books, more than 30 community meeting areas, a performance hall, café, outdoor plazas, a children’s library, dedicated spaces for teens and recording studios. Calgary’s Light Rapid Transit runs right through the building. In its first three months of operation, the library attracted more than half a million visitors.

The library makes a striking first impression, the exterior having an extremely irregular, geometric glass wall grid designed to resemble ice breaking up on a lake.

“The façade is remarkable,” remarks Roddy. “I love the fact that the interest in the smooth metal panel is coming from the shape itself and innovative dematerialization of the glass.”


Steeple Square, Dubuque, Iowa

Standing at 211 feet, Steeple Square is one of the tallest churches in the Dubuque area. Built as St. Mary’s Catholic Church between 1864 and 1867, the monument served as an economic, social and educational center for its German immigrant parishioners. The building is now a beacon for affordable housing, educational training and recreational programs.

Because of the variety of decorative pieces, restoration crews had to make constant modifications to match the historic nature of the building. Copper aprons, pans, valleys, fascia, vented dormers, layered dormers, gable ends, finials and gold leafing were painstakingly installed.

“The level of detail, even though most people will never see it, is impressive,” remarks Theimer. “Projects like this are very worth celebrating.”


Keller Court Commons, Petaluma, Calif.

Keller Court Commons draws on the historic agricultural influences of the surrounding area and delivers a low-maintenance, sustainable community, evidenced in the standing seam metal roofing, corrugated metal wall panels, solar arrays and bright color palette. The two-bedroom houses run between 1,200 and 1,500 square feet with modern, open floor plans sized for easy heating and cooling.

The driving vernacular of the design is set by the metal building components: Galvalume-coated roof panels, wall panels and perforated panels. The metal roofs made solar panels easy to attach.

“This project has a sense of collage,” remarks Roddy. “You could compare it to a quilt, with the use of metal and other materials to create community and a quality of comfort.”