Magnificent Metal

Commercial Projects Stand Out With Metal Design Features

By Jordan Scott

Durability and support are just some of the features metal offers a façade. It can also be used to make a building stand out from others. Architects are designing buildings with metal tiles, panels and exoskeletons to do just that. Whether anodized or coated, metal can add texture, pattern and interest to a project. In some cases, metal can evolve as the building ages. These projects feature the latest in architectural metal trends.

Court and Walnut | Cincinnati

Court and Walnut, a mixed-use, high-rise building in Cincinnati, features white and gray metal panels throughout its façade. Th e project, designed by GBBN Architects, was completed in April 2020. It has a grocery store at street level, which opened midway through the building’s construction.

The building includes more than 45,000 square feet of Petersen Aluminum’s PAC-CLAD Flush Panels in Stone White, Cityscape, Silver and Custom Charcoal. The panels are made of .040 gauge aluminum and were installed by Kalkreuth Roofing and Sheet Metal of Wheeling, W.Va.

“The vertical orientation of the metal wall panels draws the eye upward, making the building appear taller and slimmer than it is. And the architect’s creative mixture of glass and four different colors of metal breaks up the building’s mass so it appears open and airy,” says Rob Heselbarth, director of communications for Petersen Aluminum.

3 Broadgate | London

The 62-foot tall 3 Broadgate may not be the tallest building in London’s financial district, but it stands out due to a new shimmering metal shell designed by Orms Designers & Architects. Th e renovation of the 3-story cylindrical building was completed in 2019.

During the financial boom of the 1980s, many large office buildings were built in London. British architect Peter Foggo designed a three-part office complex with high-quality granite façades and a post-modern appearance. The Broadgate buildings were designed as a cohesive urban cluster. However, the architectural unity was not preserved over time.

The original façade of 3 Broadgate was dominated by pink granite and tinted glass. Pedestrians are able to walk through an arch created by the building, which is located on a popular route. Analysis of pedestrian movement showed that, on average, 30,000 people use this route every day. However, only a small percentage of people chose to walk through the building prior to its renovation. The top priority for the redesign was to erase the perception of the building as a barrier.

The Orms design team removed the suspended ceiling, increasing the height of the passage from approximately 10 to 13 feet. The new façade curtain forms an archway over the entire height of the three floors, loosening up the narrow spaces between 5 and 1-2 Broadgate and providing an exciting new path for Londoners.

The existing pink granite cladding was replaced with a veil made up of laser cut anodized aluminum tiles. During the design process, the team at Orms learned that Broadgate was once a tenter-ground, where newly produced cloth was stretched to dry. This gave the design team the idea to design small, rectangular overlapping tiles that wrap around the building in a wave.

First, the Orms team sketched a tile that moves in the wind, reminiscent of stretched cloth. Th at idea led the firm in the direction of terracotta. In the end, a much lighter version made of metal was chosen. Façade system manufacturer POHL, based in Cologne, Germany, created an aluminum shingle that was inspired by the lightness of fabric panels. A square hole pattern creates additional permeability. Th e façade was installed by Waagner Biro, based in Vienna, Austria.

The façade includes a total of 5,425 shingles in three shingle sizes, the maximum being approximately 19.7 by 13.8 inches. Each individual shingle underlines the independence and more human dimension of the pavilion in contrast to its neighboring buildings, according to POHL. Anodizing transforms the top layer of the aluminum into a protective layer with a matte to silky shine and extreme durability, according to the company. The design team opted for POHL Duranize Bronze. Since the metal is surface-finished without additional paint applications, it can be recycled completely, another advantage of anodization.

Mississippi Aquarium | Gulfport, Miss

Opened on August 29, 2020, Mississippi Aquarium welcomes visitors to downtown Gulfport, Miss.’s newest destination, attracting both residents and tourists. Its three main buildings showcase a distinctive, scaled pattern using 16,000 zinc tiles fabricated from Rheinzink prePATINA blue-grey material. With a potential lifespan of 100 years or more, this resilient, natural metal supports both the aquarium’s economical and environmental goals.

In March 2016, the Gulfport Redevelopment Commission and Mississippi-based Eley Guild Hardy Architects (EGH) unveiled the project’s conceptual design to the public.

The complex curved façade’s, geometric shapes present a distinctive look with a dynamic appearance that develops a natural patina over time. In addition to the zinc material’s aesthetic, the wall panels maintain their self-healing, low-to-no-maintenance, corrosion-resistant performance for many decades.

Working closely with Roy Anderson Corp., Roofing Solutions fabricated and installed the zinc flat-lock wall tiles on all three buildings using more than 81,400 pounds of Rheinzink prePATINA blue-grey as supplied by Oakland Metal Sales. The rounded, guitar-pick form of the buildings are composed of three curved walls that splay outward as they rise.

“Thousands and thousands of panels were fabricated by our crew at our Prairieville, La., factory and then shipped to the jobsite in phases. The material was placed in covered storage onsite so that our people in the field had the supply they needed to install 50 to 60 tiles each day,” says David Furr, Roofing Solutions’ general manager for Mississippi.

“Because every building is a different size and slightly different shape, it took some strategic geometric planning to lay out and scale the Rheinzink panels appropriately. Each building’s panels are custom-sized to make all of them look uniform in their overall massing. It’s a forced perspective,” adds EGH’s Thomas Allen.

At four stories and 22,200 square feet, the Aquatic Wonders building is largest of the three and uses 24- by 24-inch zinc tiles. The mid-sized, 13,600-square-foot exhibit building has 20- by 20-inch tiles that clad the entire façade including its parapet and dramatic canopy. At 5,400 square feet, the smallest building uses 16- by 16-inch tiles to scale the ticketing area and Gulf Shop.

“The prePATINA zinc material begins with a consistent blue-grey color and, as it ages, its patina continues to gain character from the salt air and climate. They get more beautiful as time goes on. Similar to copper, it evolves instead of fails,” says Allen.

Remembering that, 15 years ago, Hurricane Katrina’s flood levels topped at 24.5 feet, the elevation of the project site was raised to 25 feet and complemented by a seawall surrounding the aquarium. Flooding, high winds, fade, corrosion and rust were all concerns expressed by the aquarium’s executive team, designers and contractors. EGH specified 1-mm-thick panels to meet the project’s multiple performance requirements. Tests were conducted to ensure the zinc tiles could withstand hurricane-force winds of up to 175 mph. Roofing Solutions’ field team anchored each zinc tile in place with sealed, concealed fasteners.

100 Mount Street | Sydney, Australia

The design for 100 Mount Street, a 35-story, glass-enclosed, mixed-use tower in the heart of North Sydney’s Central Business District, is inspired by Sydney’s rich architectural landscape. Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), the project was completed in June 2019.

Evocative of SOM’s design for the John Hancock Center in Chicago, 100 Mount Street is supported by a cross-braced, structural steel exoskeleton. Anchored by an offset core and clad in a soaring glass curtainwall, the tower offers panoramic views of Sydney Harbor, the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge. The tower’s interiors are designed to maximize daylight and open space, with nearly 20-foot column-free zones to the north and south. Permasteelisa installed the building’s curtainwall. The glass was sourced from China Southern Glass.

“Combining SOM’s global expertise and design evolution with Architectus’ best local expertise and execution has created a world class building. We are very proud of the attention to detail combined with an excellent vision and concept which will set the benchmark in North Sydney for many generations to come,” says Paul Oates, Dexus Property Group’s head of development.

At ground level, the building’s offset core allows for a series of open-concept spaces, including a commercial lobby, café and restaurant, with an approximately 26-foot-tall glass wall providing shelter from the elements. A pedestrian pathway bisects the site to connect the building to nearby public transit.

Jordan Scott is the editor of Architects’ Guide to Glass & Metal. She can be reached at

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.