Copper & copper alloys in design and architecture.
As the most frequently used processing methods, copper sheeting, tubing and wiring produce most of the copper objects around us. Copper sheet is light in weight, easy to work and join, visually attractive and extremely durable. It resists attack by air and moisture. Copper alloys, such as bronzes and brasses (copper alloyed principally with aluminium and zinc respectively) are also used in architectural design, offering a variety of colours and finishes, which combined with copper's exceptional characteristics make them the choice of designers world-wide.
Copper metals have been used in architecture for thousands of years. Many very early examples still bear witness to copper's longstanding popularity. The bronze doors on the Aachen Cathedral in Germany date back to about 800 AD, while the two bronze baptistery doors in the Cathedral of Florence, were completed by Ghiberti in 1423 AD.
Although not a modern-day innovation, copper roofing and cladding is undergoing a period of revival, as modern architects gain an interest in copper for its natural properties, its ability to form complex shapes, its long-life and excellent corrosion resistance and, perhaps especially, for its sustainaibility and recyclability, thus continuing a long-established tradition.
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The developing patina is an integral feature of the appearance of a building as it weathers, the original copper glow gradually changing to a succession of warm brown tones before reaching the final distinctive green.
Architectural designs can now be realised by a number of surface treatments that provide the desired oxide colour from the day of installation. Copper patina is often specified for its aesthetic quality. Some of the world's most distinguished architects are using copper for its supreme combination of technical and aesthetic properties. The Metropolis Museum of Science in Amsterdam, designed by Renzo Piano, is clad in green pre-patinated copper. In Stockholm, the copper-roofed museum designed by Marianne Dahlbäck and Göran Månsson, winners of an architectural competition attracting 384 entries, houses the Vasa, the only intact seventeenth century ship in the world.
Copper and copper alloys are also used in the manufacture of interior design fixtures and decorative objects. Handles, door knobs and lock cylinders are current hardware items found in homes around the world. Increasingly, copper and brass are the materials of choice for interior designers such as Andrea Ponsi (The Copper House, 1990's) in creating original contemporary furniture.
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