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High-Concept Metal Roofs

Designing a roof with “what if” in mind

Woodlake Plaza June18 3
Photo: Betty Wang-Garcia

Before there were walls, there was a roof. That’s purely speculation, but it makes sense that people would seek shelter underneath a covering before they would begin to enclose the space. Of the three necessities of life—food, clothing and shelter—the roof is step one in shelter.

Because the roof is so utilitarian, it often gets second shrift in design. There are, though, what we call “high-concept roofs.” In these roofs, architects take a “what if” approach to conceptualizing the roof. It becomes more than a necessity and elevates to a sophisticated and highly refined form that often becomes the dominant element of a building.

For these roofs, metal with its flexibility and ductility, becomes an ideal choice for the architect. We’ve chosen three very different kinds of roofs and spoke with the architects about what they were thinking when designing the roof and how they made it functional and exciting.

Photo: Dror Baldinger, FAIA, and Mark Schatz, AIA

Bold Gestures

Anne Eamon and Mark Schatz, AIA, partners at m + a architecture studio, designed their 1,000-square-foot residence with an emphasis on quality over quantity. They specified batten-roof metal panels that continue from the roof down the walls at some locations to create a dynamic and visually interesting texture.

“For us, the design of any bold looking roof concept has to stay grounded in the basics of watertightness, ease of construction, and low maintenance,” Shatz says. “So we often lead off design with bold gestures that are already based in a make it real sensibility.”

The firm takes an approach to roofs that it describes as “self decorating.” “We typically like to shed off water directly,” Schatz says, “and if at all possible, avoid gutters and downspouts, and use gravel drainage beds to catch the water coming off the roof.” The firm completed the project with 1,600 square feet of Houston-based MBCI’s Snap Tee metal panels in Galvalume. The panels have 2-inch-wide by 2-inch-deep battens. “Metal affords us the opportunity to really create dynamic and dramatic forms that we would be hard pressed to do in other materials,” Schatz says. “Metal roofing, whether it’s just plain or Galvalume, or zinc or other exotic metals, just lets us create clean lines and intriguing surfaces that can fold and turn into other parts of the building, making the roof much more than just a roof.”

Photo: Betty Wang-Garcia

A Hovering, Floating Roof

A metal roof in a beautiful, gentle arc provides the centerpiece for an outdoor amphitheater stage at Woodlake Plaza, Woodlake, Calif. TETER LLP, Fresno, Calif., designed the project with senior partner, Stan Canby Jr., AIA, PE, serving as project architect. “Oddly enough, the design basically goes against the tone of the town,” he says. “Woodlake has a Santa Barbara missionstyle design. A tile roof is more typical. It was my idea to change it up for this center of the town.”

Canby was inspired by the Hollywood Bowl concept, but on a smaller, town-plaza scale. He arrived at a metal roof as the main component of the amphitheater early in the conceptual phase. “The metal roof was perfect for a mini-concert series and the community events they hold there. The plaza is on a plateau that steps down to the public way. The mountains are in the background.”

The curve of the roof evokes a wing, and the roof looks as if it could lift up and float into the sky. The metal roofing gives that lightness and air. The perfect curve also emphasizes the steel structure with its cantilevered beams and purlins. “We wanted to give it a kind of floating effect so it looks like it’s hovering,” Canby says. “It draws the viewer’s eye to the stage. At night it glows.”

To construct a curved roof for the pavilion, Four C’s Construction, Fresno, attached standing seam panels to the purlins. The company installed 2,000 square feet of Tacoma, Wash.- based AEP Span’s 24-gauge, 16-inch-wide Select Seam Narrow Batten metal roof panels in Cool Terra Cotta. Advanced Metal Works Inc., Fresno, fabricated and installed gutters and trim.

Photo: Ruben Escobar

Thinking in 3-D

To transform a former food court building into Medicos de Visas, a clinic for the U.S. Consulate visa program in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, Grupo ARKHOS, Cuidad Juárez, designed a new façade, entrance canopy and covered, outdoor plaza. The company served as architect, fabricator and installer.

The main entrance features a red canopy that provides protection from the elements for the families that are coming to complete visa applications. Often they are there for three to four days. The canopy begins as a roof and turns into a wall. That’s a typical approach for Grupo ARKHOS. “We try to use architectural shapes and elements that involve the whole project,” says Ruben Escobar-Urrutia, LEED AP, partner in the firm. “It’s not necessarily walls or roofs or some shape or material that covers the whole projects. We don’t want to see the building in separate parts.”

For Escobar-Urrutia, a roof is more form than roof and not necessarily a roof at all. “When we start to define the project,” he says, “we are thinking in 3-D. We are thinking of how it will look as a volume. Not walls or roofs, but different shapes.”

The elliptical building defined the shape of the building, but the firm used forms to reshape the building. The exterior comprises triangular sections in smooth, silver aluminum composite material (ACM) panels. The canopy is also clad in ACM panels. Grupo ARKHOS fabricated and installed 14,100 square feet of Eastman, Ga.-based Arconic Architectural Products LLC’s 4-mm-thick Reynobond ACM in three colors: Kynar CW 500 XL Bright Silver, Pewter and Brite Red. All the ACM was fabricated on the job site, and the 18,000-square-foot project was completed in January 2018.