Leaving a Lasting Impression: 9 Contemporary Corten Projects

Corten steel is a unique material that strongly connects to ideas of time, memory, and nature.

Eric Baldwin Eric Baldwin

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Materials define architecture. Whether we are designing a seaside home or an observation tower, the materials dramatically shape the building’s place in the world and how we perceive our place within the world. Material choices are influenced by climate and availability as well as functional and aesthetic concerns. But the ways by which we organize, combine, and detail these materials also significantly impact our environment and the way we live.

Corten steel is a unique material that strongly connects to ideas of time, memory, and nature, weathering nicely with exposure to the elements over time. As in previous collections showcasing commercial and residential Corten projects, the following projects represent diverse programs and scales, juxtaposing both private and public works. Each of the nine projects examines the relationship between environmental conditions and the imprint that weather leaves on structures, places, and our perception. Designed to evolve and change over time like memories themselves, each project shows how materials are stories, embodying place and the rhythms of the human condition.

Welcome Center Alphaville by Perkins+Will Brazil, Brasília, Brazil

A strong statement in Brasília, the Welcome Center of Alphaville utilizes a large Corten grid across the building and site. The grid organizes a number of spaces including a plaza, venue areas, and openings for large trees to grow. The Corten structure sits on seven concrete blades that support a load of 50 tons.

James Swenson Civil Engineering Building by Ross Barney Architects, Duluth, Minn.

The James Swenson Civil Engineering Building was designed to build upon, and reinforce, existing circulation patterns on campus as well as provide a building with classrooms, labs, offices, and a green roof. It was created to highlight the construction and site systems related to civil engineering. Oversized scuppers channel water from the roof to a trio of Corten steel tubs, which in turn funnel water to a large French drain.

Memorial to Victims of Violence in Mexico by Gaeta Springall Arquitectos, New York City

Gaeta Springall’s memorial was designed as 70 Corten walls rising between various trees onsite. Three approaches to Corten were used: natural, rusty, and stainless, each with their own specific meanings. The memorial was also designed so that people could write the name of their victim on the Corten walls, expressing the destruction and pain provoked by violence and crime.

Millbrook House by Thomas Phifer and Partners, Millbrook, N.Y.

This house design begins with a journey through a 200-acre site that focuses on the experience and re-experience of the landscape. Geometric objects choreograph the route, leading to a cantilevered, weathering Corten box. The house frames long, perspectival views of the Hudson Valley and panoramic views in the main living spaces.

Endémico Resguardo Silvestre by graciastudio, Guadalupe, Mexico

Located in Valle de Guadalupe, or Mexico’s Wine Country, this project is a set of 20 independent rooms overlooking the valley. Designed to respect nature in every possible way, the “deluxe camping houses,” or EcoLofts, are elevated off the ground to avoid contact with the soil. Corten steel covers the shelters, weathering over time to achieve harmony between the environment and the building.

Høse Bridge by Rintala Eggertsson Architects, Sandefjord, Norway

Høse Bridge is located on the west coast of Norway, near the town of Sand. It was designed to connect the town to a vast wooden landscape used for recreation. Conceptually, the bridge acts as a horizontal reference line in the landscape, emphasizing the organic and undulating shapes of the bedrock. Two Corten steel lattice beams are on either side of the walkway, and the walls are clad in various types of metal, including Corten.

Student Recreation Center, MSU West Plains by Dake Wells Architecture, West Plains, Mo.

The design of this recreation provides multipurpose recreation space and serves as a F.E.M.A. community safe room. A twisting band of Corten steel anchors the building to the campus and the sloping site. The facility includes a basketball, volleyball, and racquetball court as well as technology integration for presentations.

Art Stable by Olson Kundig Architects, Seattle

An urban infill project in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle, Art Stable is built on the site of a former horse stable. The design includes highly adaptive live/work units. There is also an 80-foot-five-inch-tall hinge topped by a davit crane and five steel-clad doors that cover nearly a third of the façade.

Glacier Skywalk by Sturgess Architecture, Jasper, Canada

This 1,500-foot-long A+Award-winning walk is carved and folded into the Jasper National Park landscape. Corten steel and glass cantilevers outward, overlooking the valley and glacier below. The design centers around the idea of cropping out from the landscape and extending from it.

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