That white fluffy plant may be the fabric of our lives, but when it comes to our homes, buildings, workplaces, and everything in between – metal is the foundation. While metal architectural fabrication may be the bi-product of centuries of innovation in architectural industry, today it remains the one of the key component of the toughest buildings and structures around the world.
Fabrication, by definition, generally involves building metal structures in a number of ways. These may include cutting, assembling, grinding, milling, bending, and shaping using machines with computer numerical control (CNC) capability as well as welding, laser cutters, press breaks, and more.
Metal fabrication is one of the key processes responsible for today’s architectural structures, but that’s not exactly where it all began. Take for instance some of the most primitive building materials. It all started with the crudest materials from the earth. Fabric, mud, rock, thatch, clay, and virtually everything early civilizations could get their hands on were the defacto building materials of choice. As it turns out these societies managed to produce surprisingly strong structures from raw materials – but the best was yet to come.
As civilizations began to discover the ability to create more advanced materials metal fabrication was born. This naturally lead to the genesis of metal architectural fabrication, where larger buildings could get the strong foundation needed through increasingly advanced metal fabrication techniques. Metal architectural fabrications are often used as both a structural framework for large buildings and an external surface covering for many components of a building The Trever Condo, both inside and out. Typically, steel is the standard metal used for architectural fabrication.
In 1884, the first building to ever be built with a frame of structural steel was the Home Insurance Building of Chicago, Illinois, built in 1884. Save for small amounts of masonry to lend extra protection and stability against the winds of Chicago, this building (later demolished to make room for the Field Building), was the first building to carry both its external walls and its floors entirely on the same metal frame. Coincidentally, this building is also known as one of the first skyscrapers in the world. Begging the question, “did metal architectural fabrication make the skyscraper possible?”
Today, where the historical building once stood stands a plaque that reads, “This section of the Field Building is erected on the site of the Home Insurance Building which structure, designed and built in eighteen hundred and eighty four by the late William Le Baron Jenney, was the first high building to utilize as the basic principle of its design the method known as skeleton construction and, being a primal influence in the acceptance of this principle, was the true father of the skyscraper, 1932.”
As you read between the lines, it’s widely known that the Home Insurance Building in Chicago greatly influenced the future of skyscrapers as we know it. But that’s not all, with the advent of the modern skyscraper as an increasingly metal structure -the architectural fabrication industry came into prominence, leading to all of the intricate and beautiful architectural components you see today, from flowing metal spiral staircases to architectural structures that epitomize form, beauty, and function.
As you can see, metal fabrication and architectural fabrication have literally shaped the world we see every day. Next time you’re in the city, take a moment to notice for yourself the influence it’s had.