Metal in Architecture Supplement 2017 – Editor’s comment

The primary job of a building’s facade is to protect the building it covers, and therefore the occupants inside, but for many years, the aesthetic properties of functional metal facades such as curtain walling were arguably not universally appreciated. However with building designers being keener to exploit and celebrate the charms of metal in recent decades, from ABK’s stainless steel-clad Isle of Wight Hospital, to Tengbom’s district court clad entirely in zinc, in Alingsås, Sweden, which won that country’s metal-focused Plåt prize in 2016. Such buildings move the stereotype away from ‘metal sheds’ to a new attractive materiality which has a purity that many can enjoy.

This supplement features a couple of great examples of architects using metals to provide a functional but lively counterpoint to other facade materials to give buildings a particular vitality of their own. The Vendsyssel Theatre in Hjørring, northern Denmark, combines boxy elements of bright rusty orange corten steel with counterparts in translucent frosted glass over pastel cladding to impressive effect. Read our report on the building by Stephen Cousins on page 28.

And in Brussels some new giant zinc pebbles have emerged, representing a new ‘gateway’ to the city as it begins its journey into a new era freed from the UK. Although ostensibly a shopping mall and events venue, Docks Bruxsel feels a lot more than that, with beautiful zinc shingles forming futuristic shapes, their subtle sheen used to contrast with warmer timber cladding, and other natural materials such as brick. Visiting this project was a real pleasure – and you can’t say that about most shopping malls!