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Decorative Element: Woven Architectural Metal Mesh Grows in Popularity

The use of metal as a decorative exterior building element has become increasingly prevalent as the material's variety of aesthetic, functional, affordable and sustainable benefits continue to be realized. It comes as no surprise that the popularity and incorporation of woven architectural metal fabric into building facades has continued to increase.

Woven metal fabric is a natural choice in terms of achieving an aesthetically appealing exterior while offering all the functional and sustainable advantages that metal inherently provides. Architectural metal mesh stands out from other metal products because of the unparalleled visual and textural appeal it offers.



One recent trend in the use of metal fabric for exteriors includes incorporating metal mesh into parking garage design. The classic appeal of metal combined with the modern texture of the mesh makes woven metal fabric an increasingly popular option for visually differentiating a parking structure. For example, a parkade architectural mesh application from Cambridge Architectural, Cambridge, Md., was specified for aesthetic reasons at a new parking structure at the Bellagio Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. The flowing drapes of metal mesh were installed to lend a dramatic, glamorous look to the parkade's exterior. In this instance, the mesh functions mainly as a decorative element because the metal mesh panels in Cambridge's Stripe pattern were installed away from the structure. As an added aesthetic bonus, the mesh application is bathed in exterior lighting at night to create a glossy, luminous effect.


"Our decision to use architectural mesh for the Bellagio project was based largely on its durability and its unique ability to react with the garage's exterior lighting at night," explained Robert Tabak, project senior designer, HKS Inc., Dallas. "The versatility of metal mesh offers many design features that serve dual functions-with some features accentuated at night, and other benefits gained during the day."


Function and Texture

A parking structure in Waltham, Mass., demonstrates the trend in specifying architectural mesh for both decorative and functional purposes. The parking garage, located within the Reservoir Woods office complex, features a unique metal mesh application that, in addition to adding an element of visual interest to the structure, eliminates any HVAC requirements, facilitates airflow and ensures visibility throughout the parking structure.


"The metal fabric is perceived as a unique, contemporary way to wrap a garage, adding an element of visual texture to the elevations," explained Peter Darby, AIA, project manager for Reservoir Woods for the architectural firm Spagnolo Gisness & Associates, Boston.


Shading Solutions

Another recent trend in designing with metal fabric includes specifying metal mesh for solar shading purposes. A Solarscape mesh application at McGowan Academic Center at Capital College in Laurel, Md., beautifully showcases the metal fabric's ability to control solar heat gain. Panels of metal fabric in Cambridge Architectural's Plait pattern were attached in tension with frame attachment hardware to create the custom shading solution.


The metal mesh application controls solar heat gain during the day and reduces the spill of light pollution at night. Overall, the metal fabric application serves as the focal point of the facility with its unique look lending a modern, sophisticated component to the front of the building within the main lobby.



Woven metal fabric also continues to be utilized for corporate branding purposes, as showcased by a metal mesh application adorning an Urban Outfitters store in Chicago. Metal mesh is an excellent vehicle for displaying corporate identity, as corporate logos can either be attached to the metal fabric or laser-etched directly into the mesh. For the Urban Outfitters store, the metal fabric application was installed vertically as a backdrop for the storefront's signage. Woven metal fabric in Cambridge's Ridge pattern was wrapped around tableau attachment hardware to create the 24 panels that support the store's sign.


Sculpting and Security

Metal mesh has additionally been specified to attractively define space within exterior areas, like that of the National Archives Southeast Region in Morrow, Ga. Here, the Cambridge Architectural Space Sculpting mesh application surrounds the archives' outdoor patios and connects the main building to the adjacent visitor's center. Besides adding a modern touch to the structure's exterior, the metal mesh application provides an aesthetically pleasing method of protection for people and property.


"The Cambridge Architectural mesh application we chose meets security regulations that limit openings to no larger than 1 inch [25 mm]," said Project Manager Carissa Faroughi of the project architect, Peck Peck and Associates, Woodbridge, Va. "The mesh also allowed us to enclose the patio and keep it controlled without looking boxy. It provided a clean aesthetic that goes with the contemporary design of the building."


In addition to solar control, parking structure, corporate branding and exterior space sculpting applications, the combined aesthetics and functionality that metal mesh provides makes it an excellent choice for a multitude of decorative exterior purposes, both now and into the future.

"Moving forward, metal fabric will continue to be used for a variety of different exterior building applications," explained Tom Costello, general manager, Cambridge Architectural. "As city living becomes more prevalent in the coming years, urban areas will continue to be revitalized, which will provide many opportunities for the incorporation of woven metal fabric into the building envelope as a unique decorative element. Additionally, the increase in multiuse facilities and the increased desire to integrate interior finishes with exterior cladding options will provide a huge market for the use of architectural mesh. As a whole, new construction and renovation opportunities will continue to pave the way for woven metal mesh solutions to elegantly differentiate the exteriors that they adorn."


Heather Collins is director of marketing for Cambridge Architectural, Cambridge, Md.