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How Fabricoil’s Flexible Metal Fabrics Age With Grace

With endless custom finishes, Fabricoil® stirs the imagination of architects and gives way for new design possibilities.

Architizer Editors Architizer Editors

Sometimes, materials are afterthoughts, integrated into a design once its initial stages are already carried out. However, Fabricoil by Cascade Architectural is one of those rare yet incredible materials that completely shapes a piece of architecture. It stirs the imagination of architects and gives way for aesthetic and functional possibilities that they may not have otherwise thought possible. For this reason, the decision to work with Fabricoil may even reverse the typical order of things, and work to inspire a design.

Created from interlocking strands of spiraled wire, Fabricoil looks like traditional woven metal mesh and performs many of the same functions, plus it’s flexible and formable. As a budget friendly option that forfeits neither strength nor adaptability, it allows a wider range of architects to explore its design possibilities and bring their most daring visions to reality. Some of the most common design challenges that Fabricoil can help solve include adding texture to a building or using it as an exterior application to create shade and ventilation.

Cascade Architectural offers Fabricoil in many standard and custom finishes, including copper clad steel and powder coated finishes for exterior applications.

Fabricoil systems are available in nearly any size, and can be specified in a broad range of weaves, gauges, and most importantly, finishes. For example, Fabricoil’s copper clad steel metal fabric allows architects to showcase a dynamic patinaed look over time, while other powder coated copper finishes offer a more consistent appearance. As a result of these exciting options, the final architectural product that you choose to bring to life will depend on the product design specifications that you select.

Two projects that use Fabricoil’s fabrics in a copper clad steel metal finish to deliberately harness this patinaed aesthetic are Tarleton State University by BOKA Powell Architects and the El Paso Federal Courthouse by Antoine Predock Architect. These projects exhibit just a fraction of the many ways that Fabricoil can be applied as a functional and brilliant exterior application, and can be used as strong design precedents to inspire your future approach.

Left: Exterior image of the Traditions Residence Hall when the copper clad steel metal fabric was freshly installed; Right: Copper clad steel metal fabric after it patinaed; image by Erika Brown Photography

BOKA Powell Architects recently designed Traditions Residence Hall, which is located immediately adjacent to the main football stadium at Tarleton State University. The residence, which was built to house a total of 616 students, features an exterior Fabricoil system in a copper clad steel finish that has already visually morphed with time, as depicted above.

Not only does this detail heighten the building’s street appeal, but it also results in a dynamic façade that catches the light in different ways, depending on the time of day. “The gradated translucency of the overlapping panels, and the shadows they cast, create a beautiful moiré effect that animates both the interior public spaces and the pedestrian mall,” said Eric Van Hyfte, principal architect at BOKA Powell Architects.

Detail images of Fabricoil, as applied on the Traditions residence hall at Tarleton State University; images by Erika Brown Photography

According to Hyfte, “our design for the Traditions Residence Hall at Tarleton State University locates social space for residents in two lantern-like elements along a primary pedestrian route from the campus to the football stadium. We explored several options for vertical sunshades, and ultimately selected Fabricoil due to its durability, functionality and aesthetic qualities.”

Exterior image of the El Paso Federal Courthouse. Antoine Predock Architect suspended tensioned copper clad steel Fabricoil panels over the building’s windows to provide solar shading and protection; image via Fred Bolden

The El Paso Federal Courthouse by Antoine Predock Architect is a symbolic structure that borders the edge of downtown El Paso and frames views of the nearby Mount Franklin. The building mass is composed of two defined sections: the first is clad in copper (in material reference to the local smelter) and the second is composed of Texas Limestone. Antoine Predock Architect applied a Fabricoil exterior system over the windows of the structure, rendering a striking color contrast on the face of the building throughout the day and night.

Over time, the El Paso Federal Courthouse has patinaed, showcasing an aged copper appearance

To create the desired aesthetic, the architects selected a copper clad steel metal mesh, which they suspended using a horizontal pipeline attachment. ”It hangs like a fabric and has a very distinctive three-dimensional aspect that you cannot really get with other woven meshes,” said Paul Fehlau of Antoine Predock Architect. “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 isn’t really anything else like it.”

Detail image of copper clad steel Fabricoil with attachment system, applied on the El Paso Federal Courthouse by Antoine Predock Architect; images by Fred Golden

Using copper clad steel metal mesh, both Traditions Residence Hall at Tarleton State University and the El Paso Federal Courthouse demonstrate how Fabricoil can fulfill a major functional and aesthetic role in your upcoming architectural designs. Next time that you are looking for a versatile metal mesh to specify or you are hoping to create a dynamic façade that will age with grace, it’s worth considering Fabricoil on both fronts.