Cor-Ten steel has become one of the most heavily used cladding surfaces in recent years. There are good reasons: it is cheap and easily procured, and its natural patina adds textural flair to any project. Its industrial look makes it well-suited to contemporary renovations, but it’s worth noting that it is not a new phenomenon. The mass-produced material was famously used by Eero Saarinen for the Deere & Co. headquarters in 1964, where Cor-Ten columns mimic surrounding tree trunks. It was also a favorite of brown-lover Kevin Roche. The irony of both its place in history and current popularity? The manufacturers explicitly advise against using it for architectural purposes. Rules were meant to be broken, right?
Here are some of our favorite rebellious and inventive uses of Cor-Ten steel, warnings be darned.
An unexpected use of Cor-Ten, this roof gives the home a rustic feel, while a cistern and passive solar strategies make the house self-sustaining.
The rough but clean-edged Cor-Ten box offers as a vibrant contrast to the existing stone wall that runs along the site.
The large pre-fab panels of this 2015 A+Awards finalist were assembled on site and reference the brick of the surrounding neighborhood.
Retractable Cor-Ten screens provide a veil of shade and privacy for this waterfront home.
Cor-Ten shutters in the façade are perforated with a blown-up digital image of “mint leaves.” The screens help shade the house when closed, while light shines out from the holes at night.
The Y-shaped house is clad in corrugated Cor-Ten, creating a sculptural mass that contrasts sharply with the surrounding green lawn.