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Metal Celebration in Five Parts

Metal has been used as a building material for centuries, but it is considered a very modern material. That is just one of the interesting dichotomies of metal. It is old and new. Soft and hard. Smooth and textured. Dull and bright. Flexible and rigid.

Metal expresses a contemporary vernacular that architects enjoy exercising both as a dominant material and as an accent. Here at Metal Architecture we see metal used in so many different applications, that our interest seldom wavers and our surprise often catches us. We thought it would be fun to showcase metal in all of its generous incarnations.



For architects wishing to extol the virtues of modern design, metal provides the perfect medium. Its clean edges, sharp lines and uncomplicated surface give designers a material that focuses the eye on the forms rather than the material.

The Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts in Providence, R.I., was designed by renowned architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, New York City. The fins converge into a flat plane that creates a sense of motion without movement. Contemporary design plays with the conflict between simplicity and complication, which is reflected in this building.


Completed: January 2010
Total square footage: 35,000 square feet
Owner: Brown University
General contractor: Shawmut Design and Construction, Boston
Architect: Diller Scofidio + Renfro, New York City
Fabricator: Karas & Karas Glass Co., South Boston, Mass.
Structural system: J.L. Marshall & Sons Inc., Seekonk, Mass.
Metal wall panels: Alcoa Architectural Products, Eastman, Ga.,
Zinc: Umicore Building Products USA Inc., Raleigh, N.C.,



In contrast to the artifice of a modern aesthetic is the authenticity of a natural aesthetic. Surprisingly, metal, especially natural metals, make this leap from artifice to authenticity quite easily. Naturally even.

Line and Space, Tucson, Ariz., designed the Contact Station at Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area near Las Vegas to fit into the very specific beauty of the desert Southwest. The sandblasted, perforated metal screens give a texture to the metal that complements that rough surroundings. The sandblasting exposed a natural patina that worked with the red of the surrounding mountains, which have a high oxide content. In addition, metal speaks to durability.

Completed: January 2010
Total square feet: 1,320 square feet
Owner: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management
Architect: Line and Space LLC, Tucson, Ariz.
General contractor: Straub Construction, Fallbrook, Calif.
Installer: J&W Construction, Paramount, Calif.
Perforated metal panels: McNICHOLS Co., Tampa, Fla.,



One of the most enduring aspects of metal is its ability to have a sense of place across a variety of environments. The oxidizing Cor-Ten steel in this composers studio in the woods of Wisconsin shows how it can fit into both woodland as well as desert. But the steel does even more.

It exhibits strength and texture. Too often, designers achieve texture through artificial means of perforation, expansion or imprint, but it can also be arrived at through the natural oxidation process. Sometimes, small structures in the woods appear like jewel cases, but the texture and heft of the metal in this studio render it more like a lock box.

Completed: September 2011
Total square footage: 300 square feet
Owner: Eric Edstrom
Architect: Johnsen Schmaling Architects, Milwaukee
General contractor: Vintage Custom Homes, Mukwonago, Wis.
Steel: Cor-Ten, ASTM A242



Metal can gleam and brighten a skyline, and its reflectivity can be more subtle and create ambience. The Fire Station 30 in Seattle utilized copper panels to work with the full glazing on the front elevation, picking up its reflective qualities, while providing both a natural pleasing color palette and a strong modern aesthetic of brightness.

The sky, the street lights and the buildings around it are reflected in the copper and transformed. Each elevation has a different appearance because of the reflectivity, yet is cohesive in its design.


Completed: April 2011
Total square footage: 9,120 square feet
Owner: City of Seattle
Architect: Schacht Aslani Architects, Seattle
General contractor: Synergy Construction Inc., Woodinville, Wash.
Glazing contractor: Pacific Northwest Contractors Inc., Lakewood, Wash.
Metal wall panel fabricator/installer: Northshore Sheet Metal Inc., Everett, Wash.
Coating: Artisan Finishing Systems Inc., Maysville, Wash.,
Curtainwall: Kawneer Co. Inc., Norcross, Ga.,
Metal wall panels: AEP Span, Fontana, Calif.,, and Morin Corp., a Kingspan Group Company, Bristol, onn.,



Bend, fold, mutilate and spindle. Metal can withstand all the modern era degradations and even become something more impressive and exciting.

Perhaps the most prominent expression of metal in contemporary architecture is its use on curving, undulating, rising, tilting and bulging walls and roofs. The ductility of metal allows it to bend and curve giving old shapes new sheens.

The Old Post Office Plaza sculpture in St. Louis works as a catalyst to urban renewal by making what was old new again. The comforting shapes soften the hard lines of an urban core, giving citizens something generous to view.


Completed: January 2009
Total square footage: 6,000 square feet
Architect: Baird Sampson Neuert Architects, Toronto
General contractor: Kozeny-Wagner Inc., Arnold, Mo.
Structural engineer: Blackwell Bowick Partnership, Toronto
Metal fabricator/Stainless steel panels: Fabri-Tech Sheet Metal Inc., St. Louis,
Zinc wall panels: Umicore Building Products USA Inc., Raleigh, N.C.,