Metal and architecture has evolved over centuries, with successive eras opening up new technical and elegant possibilities through the development of different types of metals. Metals are dense, lustrous materials that are highly conductive of heat and electricity.
Some facts about metals are that they are generally ductile, meaning that they can be hammered thin or drawn into wires. Metals can also be liquified by heating and then resolidified by cooling. Presently metals are the strongest building materials in common use. Found in nature, metals come in the form of oxide ores, meaning they are a compound of oxygen mixed with a mineral containing a valuable constituent such as metal. Metals can also corrode and wear away by oxidation.
Common metals include iron, copper, steel, tin and bronze. Metal is seldom used in its chemical pure state. It is often mixed with other metals or elements to modify its properties for a particular purpose. These are called alloys. An example of this would be copper plus a small amount of tin would equal bronze.
This history of architectural metals go back to the time of the Romans. The Romans were the first to use metal as a major building material. The Pantheon had a bronze roof, parts of which survived until the middle of this century. Many coppers and led were used in gothic architecture. Paxton's Crystal Palace marked a moment in history for metal and architecture. It employed 3300 columns and 2220 girders with were prefabricated from molded cast iron. Paxton's Crystal Palace set the tone for iron buildings for the next 50 years. The Eiffel Tower was also a building made of iron, wrought iron open lattice. The tower was 984 ft. and at one point was one of the tallest buildings in the world. But it is iron and steel that have had the most radical influence on architecture. The skeletal structural frame effectively liberated buildings from the inhibitions of the loadbearing wall. Cast iron, the great material of the...
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