This week in the Wylde we’re throwing a spotlight on rusted or weathering steel in architecture. Rusting is a natural process that occurs when steel (an iron-carbon allow) is exposed to oxygen and the presence of water, creating a red iron oxide referred to as ‘rust’. In recent years a family of low carbon steels known as ‘weathering steel’ have become increasingly popular in the architectural world.

The surface layer of weathering steel corrodes and appears as rust whilst protecting the layers beneath from further degradation. The additional alloying elements combined with the carbon and iron atoms make the material stronger and more corrosion resistant with a longer life span than mild steel.

The rusty appearance has been integrated into building and construction design to create a unique, industrial aesthetic. The warm, copper colouring allows the building to morph and change over time as the material reacts to it’s surrounding environment. The design concept is rooted in the perspective that things that have existed for a long time are worthy of respect and admiration. There is a story told with the evidential exposure these structures have had to the elements and somehow the material is therefore more rich and beautiful as a result.

Of course it’s not to everyone’s taste but we think the best examples of weathering steel is when combined with modern design elements such as sharp, clean edges and juxtaposing modern design. We love the contrast of rusted sheeting and shiny glazing – an old meets new aesthetic that brings the structure into the present day.

There are several examples of how weathering steel facades have been integrated into stunning architecture – sometimes as the main cladding for the buildings but also as feature walls and panelling. A beautiful option for large surface areas – weathering steel has been chosen as the finish for buildings with an industrial heritage that have been brought into modern times such as the former power station as the Cultural Centre in Dresden, Vienna’s Business School, Expo Milano and Leeds College of Art to name a few!

Check out our gallery of warming-red weathering steel in use!