Lorin Anodized Aluminum Reflects Your Vision – Like in This Ode to a Bygone Style
Built primarily in the 1800s, traditional Kentucky tobacco barns have weathered wooden exteriors with a darkened appearance and wood on the interior, which enjoys protection from the elements, and retains a bright tone. In addition to this characteristic tonal pattern, the structures’ exposed wood clearly shows its vertical grains. These simple buildings cut angular profiles against their backdrops of the verdant fields and glens of Kentucky. An architectural set piece for the region around Owensboro, KY, an architect turned to the barns for inspiration when designing a new convention center for the city – but wood would not do. A replacement was required, but what material could reflect wood grain and match the right colors while providing exceptional architectural performance?
Coil anodized aluminum offers a unique set of benefits to architects in the market for something very specific. Controlling the oxidation process through continuous coil anodizing creates a clear, translucent aluminum oxide layer that shows off the beauty of the natural metal. The resulting anodic layer can be colored, with the continuous coil process delivering a consistent tone. In the end, Black Matt® Long Line Brushed and Clear Matt® Long Line Brushed finishes—for the exterior and interior, respectively—matched the architect’s vision. Lorin measured the three-dimensional colors of the specified samples using the Hunter L, A, and B scales, ran a trial run, and then began processing the product, which they were able to do with color control across all the material throughout the entire manufacturing process. Delta E measures the difference between colors on a scale from 0 and 100. For the project’s production runs, Lorin achieved high color consistency with a Delta E of just 1.5.
However, to truly emulate the tobacco barns, more than just color would have to match. Integrating the material into the sleek design while revealing a wood-like texture required careful coordination with MetalTech-U.S.A. When you change the grain, it creates a flashing effect where two identical products can look dissimilar because of the angle of light reflection. The Long Line Brushed finish of the anodized aluminum reflects light in much the same way textured wood does—while not trying to be wood, it does have a texture you can feel. This was a feature for the architect, who appreciated the long grains in the reference architecture, but incorrectly manufactured or installed panels could defeat the effect. “We tried to create this smooth, vertical finish that would allow the buildings to feel like these vertical panels are very similar to the vertical wood graining of the barns,” he said. So, the anodized aluminum experts at Lorin confirmed with MetalTech-U.S.A to roll-form panels in the direction of the grain created during the coil anodizing process, ensuring a consistent finish. These pieces fit tightly into a seamless smooth exterior, achieving the angularity of the buildings that inspired the structure while ensuring the effect of grain was not lost. “When the sun hits the panels,” the architect says, “there’s this vertical reflection, very similar to some of those wood grains you see on the old tobacco barns.”
In all, Lorin supplied coil anodized aluminum for 170,000 ft2 of interior and exterior paneling, allowing the project to successfully reinterpret the region’s historic barns with tonal and textural flair while protecting the project with a high-performance material. Unlike the structures that inspired the award-winning Owensboro Convention Center’s design, though, it will not fade with time. Instead, it is built for durability. The crystalline aluminum oxide layer on the panels belongs to the same family of gemstones as sapphire and is second only to diamonds in terms of hardness. Architectural Grade Class I panels provide at least .007 inches of anodic layer for increased protection and greater longevity. Unlike paint or coatings, the anodized layer does not chip, flake, or peel, nor does it require special cleaning solvents. So, while wood could not have succeeded for the project, the project will stand as a durable testament to the humble architecture that inspired its design—and will continue to inspire pride in the local community. With performance and style, Lorin anodized aluminum often reflects the vision of an inspired architect.