Metals

Looking at metals that have been popular for hundreds of years and also some modern new-comers that re currently fashionable.
Architectural Finishes - What are they and what purpose(s) do they serve?

Architectural Finishes - What are they and what purpose(s) do they serve?

An analysis of architectural finishes and the role they play. What is an architectural finish? We often talk about ‘architectural finishes’ within the construction industry and in everyday language in relation to aspects of a building that is visible to anyone using or viewing both the exterior and interior parts of a building. Architects and designers typically use this terminology specifically to describe a wide range of surface treatments to horizontal surfaces (floors and ceilings) and vertical surfaces (walls) fixed to the main structural elements of the building (floor and ceiling slabs, block walls or stud walls) to complete or…
Stainless steel – the super-alloy

Stainless steel – the super-alloy

An overview of this versatile material Versatility Stainless steel is a metal that’s all pervasive - strong, robust and flexible - but so widely used that it all-to-often blends competently and unobtrusively into the background. Here I attempt to provide insight into its versatility as a remarkable building material; from handsome structural elements to the more whimsically formed art pieces, furniture, fittings and speciality metal works. Structural stainless steel beams by Kivort Steel Tom Dixon’s Etch Web light fitting constructed from stainless steel As iron alloys with elements such as carbon, chromium, nickel, molybdenum, copper, manganese and various other elements…
Stainless Steel Sheets – performance and use in architecture

Stainless Steel Sheets – performance and use in architecture

How stainlesss steel sheet crops up in our daily lives. "Because I like it!" When I was at the University at the Faculty of Architecture there was a non-written rule: never justify a design choice saying "because I like it", such an answer could have caused convulsions to the professor and assistants and for sure your proposal would have been badly rejected. Now, I know, this could sound a bit too strict and none should never be inhibited on expressing freely what he likes, but at the time Architecture was believed to be an altruistic and selfless science with the…
An Overview of Steel & Sustainability in Construction

An Overview of Steel & Sustainability in Construction

Looking at some of the key properties of steel within the context of sustainability... Sustainability in building materials Sustainable – according to the Oxford English Dictionary 2015, "conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources". As a Masters degree student and Construction Lecturer who lectures in Sustainable Construction I only found out just how wasteful we, as humans, are recently. Thirty years ago building design and material selection didn’t even really take into account the matter of sustainability. If wood was used for example it was selected because it looked good, was cheap or the council planning department…
Stainless Steel Sheets – from tomato cans to skyscrapers

Stainless Steel Sheets – from tomato cans to skyscrapers

How stainlesss steel sheet crops up in our daily lives. From tomatoes... The three clips of my braces, the sink where I wash the cap, the dishwasher, the wash machine, the fridge, the majority of the appliances in my kitchen, the lift, the bus I take to go to work, the roof and the cladding of the buildings around... the list could carry on forever! We are surrounded, like it or not, by sheet metal. There is one particular object which could symbolize the reasons why sheet metal is so diffused. It is a very common object which shape and…
Structural Steelwork Overview – “The third stage in the Journey of a Fabricated Beam”

Structural Steelwork Overview – “The third stage in the Journey of a Fabricated Beam”

The steel beam receives its protective coatings ready for its life in the City. Chapter 3: Towards adulthood If you are reading this chapter, that probably means you survived the first two, proving you are remarkably strong and persistent. Having got this far, it won’t be difficult to get to the end of the steel beam’s journey which is, you’ll be relieved to know, very close to the end. We left the previous chapter with the beam completely welded and cut to its final shape, just waiting for something to happen. I will now describe the “dressing” of the beam…
Structural Steelwork Overview (the continuing journey of a fabricated beam)

Structural Steelwork Overview (the continuing journey of a fabricated beam)

The steel beam is shaped and cut to suit. Chapter 2: Boyhood If you are a structural engineer you probably don’t want to read an architect’s raving around the boyhood of a steel beam, I this case I would suggest you to stand up and perhaps enjoy a walk in the park. This is the continuation of the story of my trip in a steel mill to follow the journey of a beam from her non-defined liquid form to the final product installed in a building in the City of London. We left the first chapter when I and the…
Architectural door handles

Architectural door handles

Looking at the role of interior handles in architectural detail Detail does matter, in both architectural and interior design terms. Functional metalwork, in the form of door and window handles, can be so visually important. They are used frequently throughout each day, so they need to combine ergonomic comfort with visually-pleasing looks. If you are designing an interior scheme to a specific historical period, then your range of options should probably be limited to metalwork designs of that time. If you are working in a generic traditional style then your options are rather more complicated. The origins and development of…
The evolution of decorative ironwork

The evolution of decorative ironwork

A journey back in time looking at the design origins of decorative ironwork "Hand forged Ironwork is the Salt & Pepper of Architecture.” Samuel Yellin, 1885-1940" The origins of iron production and aesthetics The first iron production started in the Middle Bronze Age. The Hittites were the first to understand the production of iron. The vast availability of the raw material enabled bronze weapons to be replaced with iron ones. In Europe, the spread of ironwork is associated with the Celtic Expansion, being first introduced to Greeks around 1100-1000 BC and reaching western and central Europe by 600 BC. Iron…
Structural Steelwork Overview

Structural Steelwork Overview

The story of a fabricated steel beam Chapter 1: Birth As architect I often have to defend myself from the prejudice that architects lack pragmatism. I use to work daily with engineers and yes, they love to blame architects for not being realistic! Therefore I couldn’t say no when a bunch of suspiciously friendly engineers invited me for an instructive trip to follow the process of the making of a fabricated steel beam from the raw materials to the final installed object. This is the first chapter of a sort of notebook of my descent into the burning cave of…
The peerless qualities of stainless steel

The peerless qualities of stainless steel

Looking at the qualities of this remarkable alloy Metals and alloys The Blue Planet, which is home to approximately 7 billion humans alone, is also home to a cache of material resources buried deep within its strata, on hand to meet our every need. Most of these materials in their elemental form are metals. In their purest form, metals lack the hardiness required to endure time and place and must be alloyed with other metals and non-metals to be of use. Iron, for instance, is a remarkably strong metal, yet brittle and susceptible to rust in exposed environments. Conversely, aluminium…
An overview of architectural cladding and materials

An overview of architectural cladding and materials

An overview of architectural cladding and materials Cladding /klædıŋ/ a covering or coating on a structure or material, etc. (Oxford English Reference, 1996). One type of cladding, or siding as they say in the USA, starred as the theme of the 1987 movie Tin Men, also starring Danny DeVito and Richard Dreyfuss. Set in the 1960s, at the height of America’s post war building prosperity, rival salesmen use skullduggery to close sales on aluminum sidings. These characters are as passionate about their product as closing their deals. No doubt there is still healthy competition in markets today where there are…
The use of steel in restoration

The use of steel in restoration

How steel has developed from a structural to an aesthetic choice for buildings. Steel as a structural element The restoration of buildings plays a fundamental role in the regeneration of urban spaces. Recovering and upgrading the "built space" provides an opportunity for urban communities to provide high-quality housing that meets the needs of both local people and their immediate surroundings. Restoring buildings is also essential for preserving the architectural heritage of an area. However, insight and creativity are needed to use new planning guidelines in such a way that make old structures compatible with new consolidation-and-repair methods, both stylistically and…
The craze for copper

The craze for copper

We look at this beautiful material and its myriad of applications. What is behind the 'copper craze'? Over recent years the use of copper in architecture and interior design has become all the rage both in mainland Europe and the US. This might seem a bit of a paradox when one hears that industrial demand in the BRIC economies is putting a strain on the copper supply chain, leading to increased prices and an increase in copper theft. So is this fashion trend linked to aesthetic appeal and/or performance advantages? Or is this trend linked to product innovation leading to…
Perforated metal screens

Perforated metal screens

We look at how the use of screen materials is developing The trend of the past two decades for covering entire buildings in glazing has had negative environmental implications that has required architects to develop new approaches. This has led to the development of bioclimatic architecture: rather than creating glass towers that trap heat and rely on mechanical cooling, architects are now incorporating systems in their building designs that provide protection from summer sun, reduce winter heat loss, and make use of the environment for heating, cooling and lighting buildings. The practice of screening exterior façades from sun or winter…
Metal-framed windows

Metal-framed windows

We look at the use of metal frames for windows and doors from the early Crittall products up to their use in modern design. The birth of metal-framed windows Metal-framed windows were an idea developed as an alternative to wooden frames which require comparatively frequent maintenance. Metal was also chosen for its strength, due to the inherent, unique properties of iron - both for load-bearing and resistance to the elements. Over the years, the technology used in the manufacturing process has been refined and applied to modern-day designs: for architectural doors, walls and internal screening. The dominant manufacturer was Crittal.…
Bronze PVD

Bronze PVD

Looking at yet another bronze revival. Bronze finishes are once again the rage with those at the forefront of design. The trend is noticeable internationally in both the States and in Europe, notably the UK. Taps (faucets) shower heads and bathroom plumbing are all appearing in Interior Design magazines and blogs. These home fixtures are, of course, also widely featuring on Pinterest alongside, interestingly, the same finish being used on jewellery and accessories. Aurora style bronze pvd fountain pen Whilst real bronze is still in evidence with antique pieces of architectural ironmongery most bronze finishes being produced now are in…
Why PVD is different to traditional finishes

Why PVD is different to traditional finishes

What does the PVD (Physical Vapour Deposition) coating process actually mean and why is it so significant in product-coating terms? "PVD" is an acronym that’s increasingly prevalent in metalwork-finishing parlance and is generally associated with scratch-resistance and colouring benefits. But what does the PVD (Physical Vapour Deposition) coating process actually mean and why is it so significant in product-coating terms? Traditional electroplating It is electroplating that is regarded as the traditional metalwork-coating process. This involves the plating solution being put in a tank and the product to be plated receiving a negative electrical charge. This negative charge attracts the positively-…
PVD coatings and architectural ironmongery

PVD coatings and architectural ironmongery

Looking at the history of materials used for taps and handles and the modern-day options. Stainless steel is now used widely on a vast range of commonplace household items. Metal finishes, achieved with the PVD process, are now adding a new dimension to really make items such as bathroom fixtures and architectural ironmongery not only stand out but stand the test of time. Kohler’s tap, or faucet, in Rose Gold Taking a step back into history, metals used for taps and bathroom fittings have come and gone in terms of preference. Due to its corrosion resistance, nickel was the popular…
What is Shot Peening

What is Shot Peening

An explanation of the shot-peening process which is used today by contemporary architects and designers and yet which has been around since mediaeval times. We give a simple account of the process. Shot peening is a cold working process which can trace its roots to the methods blacksmiths practiced in medieval times. The surface which requires shot peening is bombarded by small round media called shot which are creating the same kind of impact as the blacksmith’s hammer. In the same way, the shot strikes the surface leaving behind a small indentation or dimple. In order for a dimple to…
What can PVD coatings be made of?

What can PVD coatings be made of?

PVD coated stainless steel is still very new in the UK. We give a broader picture of PVD coatings and explain some of the technical aspects of the process. Thin PVD coatings are typically deposited to give, often metal products, extra strength as well as aesthetic appeal. Almost any material can be PVD coated, but the most typical examples are using the process for stainless steel or titanium. Other materials include: chrome plated brass and all other steels. The list of coating materials used in the PVD process include: - TIN: titanium nitride - the first PVD hard coating to…
Using Stainless steel and PVD coatings for yachts

Using Stainless steel and PVD coatings for yachts

The nitty-gritty of yacht fixtures and accessories and how modern techniques are improving their appearance and lifespan. The metals most commonly used today in the construction of yachts, marine structures and chandlery are stainless steel and aluminium. While aluminium is light, it has limited corrosion resistance in seawater and requires significant maintenance. Stainless steel, however, is recognised as one of the best materials for marine applications as its corrosion resistance is excellent. It is also a strong and stiff metal and can be given many different eye-catching finishes to make it last even longer. The Maltese Falcon, designed by Ken…
The world of shot peening

The world of shot peening

Looking at the range of materials and uses of shot peening. There are thousands of ways of using shot peening media. Fatigue life is enhanced significantly increasing the useful life of the treated part, the stress is relieved so that all of the component parts work together and surface hardness is enhanced increasing resistance to scratches. Very importantly shot peening also provides an aesthetically pleasing finish. Shot for peening has to be round, but can be made from cast steel, cut-wire, stainless steel, glass, ceramic as well as other materials. The degree and consistency of results depends on the base…
Doors, doors, doors

Doors, doors, doors

An essential item for our security and privacy and also a style and design statement. We look at some of the options on doors. Contemporary style metal doors Metal external doors are not just functional for factories and foundries any longer. Today, it is not unusual for these doors to be used at hotels, apartment buildings, and even homes. In many areas steel doors actually outsell their wood and fibreglass counterparts. Home extension by Innovarchi in Balmain, New South Wales, Australia Popular choices of materials are stainless steel, bronze, brass and aluminium. There are ways of making them more interesting,…