We have talked a lot about Aluminium in the past, we have discussed its many properties, how the world would be affected if we didn't have it; we've even touched upon how it is refined from its ore, Bauxite, and how it becomes the metal we all know and love. Most of us know of Aluminium, and even those who don't still undoubtedly come into contact with it on a regular basis, but generally when we think of aluminium we think of Coke cans, aluminium foil, window frames, etc. For the majority of people the thought of aluminium being used in the manufacturing of aeroplanes, cars and other vehicles, let alone construction and architecture, wouldn't even cross their mind.
This is actually quite surprising, considering how perfectly suited aluminium is to contemporary architecture, in as much as it is light, durable, naturally resilient to the effects of weathering and incredibly pleasing to the eye. Aluminium has changed the world we live in a great deal over the past 50 years, which is why we think that it is time to pay it its dues, and make people realise that aluminium is more than just a substrate for the Coca Cola logo and a convenient container for its products.
If you keep your eyes peeled as you go about your everyday life you will start to see aluminium-supporting architecture anywhere you go around the world, especially in big cities such as London, Frankfurt, Santiago, Dallas, and Beijing. It is impossible to state only one reason why aluminium has become such a popular material in construction and architecture, but what makes it practical is that in terms of raw material we're not about to run out any time soon.
Aluminium is an abundant resource, and not just because we have only really been able to harness it in the last 100 years – unlike other metals such as iron, tin and copper which have been used for thousands of years – but because it is the most abundant metal on the planet and it can be recycled over and over again without suffering any degradation. This means that aluminium is not only one of the most ideal architectural materials, it is also sustainable and a more environmentally-conscious choice compared to other materials, metallic or otherwise.
Aluminium structures tend to benefit from striking aesthetics, which would either be impossible or impractical to do with other materials. This may seem odd at first, especially for those who have ever tried painting aluminium without knowing how to do so properly first, but with the right know-how you will find aluminium to be an effective and reliable substrate.
By taking advantage of this, as well as aluminium's resistance to damage and corrosion, designers and architects have been able to achieve and decorate their buildings with intricate and sometimes colourful patterns. To see an example of aluminium's malleability and decorative potential you need only look at the Library of Birmingham, in England's second largest city, which is as renowned for its post-modernist style and its exciting, vibrant use of the serpentine aluminium frieze, which coils around the building's tiers; as it is for its historically and literary-significant collections, and numerous rare tomes.