The history of the rugged landscape of Far West Texas is inscribed in its passageways. The largest city, El Paso, gets its name from the historic Spanish mission, El Paso del Norte. It was the point marking passage from South to North, while the Rio Grande River cuts up from there through the mountains, marking a transition from East to West. For the new Federal Courthouse on the edge of downtown El Paso, architecture firm Antoine Predock drew inspiration from this rich history and the surrounding natural beauty. A grand “passageway” leads from downtown through the building’s two main structures, with views of the impressive Franklin peaks in the distance.
All throughout their design, the architects at Antoine Predock worked to reference both the geology and history of the area by working with its natural colors, textures, and materials. One structure of the building’s two main pieces is made of copper, in reference to a local smelter, and the other is crafted out of Texas limestone. In order to achieve this specific aesthetic while maintaining the practical features necessary for a hot desert climate, Antoine Predock architects turned to a Fabricoil™ architectural coiled wire fabric system, which utilizes an innovative metal fabric that offers exciting new potential to designers.
“One of the primary materials in the building is copper, so the Fabricoil system allowed us to use that material to shade the large expanses of glass near the building entry,” says Paul Fehlau, executive senior associate at Antoine Predock. For Predock’s designers, the Fabricoil system wasn’t just a practical solution; the material also opened up fascinating design possibilities and added a new element to the building, “The coil creates a dappled light pattern on the building's surfaces that allows users to observe the passage of time through changes in the shadow pattern,” says Felhau, giving the building its desired look and a dynamic feature. “The Fabricoil system allowed us to accomplish all of these goals with a material that fit into the building's material palette.”
Fabricoil systems, made by Cascade Coil Drapery, Inc., utilize a formable coiled wire fabric created specifically to help architects and designers overcome obstacles or add flair to any space. Available in an array of metals, colors and gauges, with a wide number of engineered attachment systems, Fabricoil systems are easy to customize for any imaginable application. They have practical functions such as shading large areas, protecting from falls, and ventilating, but can also simply add texture, divide spaces, or bring the perfect finishing touch to a room. Made in the USA, Fabricoil’s quality and price point provides value unmatched by traditional woven metal mesh with which it is often compared. This makes Fabricoil an elegant design solution for both interiors and exteriors for projects with even modest budgets.
For Antoine Predock’s team, affordability made the Fabricoil system a great choice, but the real advantage came from its simplicity and flexibility. With numerous options for material, gauge, color, finish, panel thickness, and more, it can be tailored to suit any vision. This means that the Fabricoil system works seamlessly with multiple styles, making it adaptable for a variety of different structures. “It is not as rigid as other metal meshes and it’s simpler with less obvious detail,” Fehlau says.
This malleability made it easy to incorporate Fabricoil systems into the specific vision for the El Paso courthouse, but it also means that it isn’t limited to the aesthetics of the desert. “Antoine's architecture emphasizes masses of material and simple form. Materials with a lot of small technical detail of their own can distract from the architecture. The Fabricoil system has a beautiful but simple surface that's very in keeping with Antoine's aesthetic intention.”
For unique ideas and visions like the ones that drove the design of the El Paso courthouse, architects can turn to Fabricoil systems for an inspired touch that they can’t get with traditional metal mesh. “It hangs like fabric and has a very distinctive three-dimensional aspect that you really cannot get with other woven meshes,” Fehlau says, “This allows you to suspend it from the top with a very simple detail and just let it drape, as compared to other meshes that need additional support to keep them in plane. There really isn't anything else like it.”