WHETHER you call it ‘ravaged’, ‘oxidised’, ‘weathered’, or just plain ‘rusted steel’, it’s been making a splash in international architecture… and it’s coming to Niseko.
From Tokyo, Sydney, London, Hong Kong and beyond, over the past few years, Niseko has been lucky enough to have its natural splendor interpreted by many internationally famous architects. While it may not be large in population, the Niseko of late never seems to be far from the cutting edge of modern architecture. After a brief spurt in popularity in the mid-’60s, rusty is trendy again.
The ‘ravaged steel’ look is big in Melbourne, forget pristine or perfect. The latest look in Melbourne architecture is to let the ravages of time prevail – and the sooner the better. The Age Newspaper writes: “COR-TEN steel is helping this process by providing a steel product that is treated to help accelerate the oxidation process. You can, however, still achieve a slower but slightly more affordable effect by allowing steel to oxidise naturally.”
Although this product has been used in industrial applications, such as bridges and shipping containers, it will most likely be the natural process of rusting that will help it merge into the architecture of Niseko’s earthy environment.
Hikohito Konishi, of Hiko Konishi Architects, used weathered steel while working on one of his latest projects in Hirafu for Hokkaido Tracks. “I thought about what would be the best material to blend with Hirafu culture,” he says.
“I thought this is a material which beautifully and naturally grows old, therefore, the steel rusting process and the completely rusted steel has a good affinity with nature, and I thought it might stay around nature without sense of incongruity in four seasons. Rust is of a natural phenomenon, so I think this building would be a good fit with nature. I enjoy seeing the process of the steel rusting daily,” he says.
“I feel the material’s power when I see the black steel is changing to the rusty color, and begins to blend with the surrounding nature.”
Weathered steel can also be used as an unfinished natural element to help add balance to some of the more polished materials that are common in today’s projects. Fourfoursixsix is the concept designer for Above+Beyond in Niseko, and since early designs has been thinking about how it can use COR-TEN steel in projects.
“We were initially drawn to using weathered steel for elements of the hotel facade, due to the rough and raw appearance of the material, directly contrasting with such materials as finished timber used elsewhere within the facade,” said Fourfoursixsix architect, Dan Welham.
“This contrast between raw and refined, rough and smooth has been something which we have been keen to integrate within the scheme from project conception.”
Whatever you want to call it, when most people first encounter it in architecture, it often tends to invoke a ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’ response.
While some people may not be able to get their heads around using rusted metal for anything constructive, more and more modern designers are falling in love with the material’s industrial yet natural form, its ability to achieve its deep ochre and brown colors, and its unfinished, raw presence.
When Shouya Grigg, the designer behind the Sekka brand, was asked why he chose to use this ravaged steel extensively in the construction of his new house, he quickly responded: “…because it looks f*%#ing amazing!”