City of Corten

One of the materials I always admired for its inherent rough beauty is weathering steel. Also known by its trademarked name ‘Corten’. It is a steel alloy which forms a stable rust surface if exposed to the weather. This eliminates the need for protecting it by painting. Its popularity in Denmark might be caused by a fact that it would be quite expensive to paint steel, because of the high labour cost. This lead to the spread of the use of Corten. However, its place of origin is the USA. In 1933 Corten was patented by U.S. Steel. Today, weathering steel is also known by the brand name Patinax and others and is produced worldwide.

As a material, corten radiates both strength, as is common for metals, and the beauty of passage of time. The oxide layer on its surface, commonly known as rust, gives the building appearance of a titan, standing in its place for centuries. Earthy brown reddish tones, which may differ, depending on the local climate, anchors the building to its place. It can be used for many purposes such as a structural steel or cladding. Another important use is also for many outdoor sculptures.

And during a few days in my current hometown, I captured many examples how Corten can be used. And I was not even looking for it. I was just casually cycling to the work or Danish courses and all these examples were just popping at me at every corner. I felt like Alice in Wonderland, so many great examples, eye-candies and textures.

There is a cinema clad in corten panels with cut sign with the names of famous cities connected with movie industry.


Corten can be used as landscaping tool. In a park near Vejle Municipality, Corten plates hold the ground, where the path cuts through the moulds of grass.

Corten can be cut to produce different patterns, as seen at this fence, dividing the street and back of the parking area with dumpsters.


Another park in Vejle incorporates Corten oculus.


And patterns cut into corten.


There is also a shopping mall ‘Bryggen’. Whole clad in Corten plates.


Detail of Vejle’s coat of arms carved to a bridge over Grejs river in the city center.


Sculpture in one of the side alleys running parallel to the main shopping street.


And the cover of drainage channels.


And those are examples just from Vejle. Small, town in Jutland. And even here, we can spot many great architectural pieces. It is not big and pompous architecture, however, it is an example of clever use of materials and principles in local context. The city combines old with new and is not afraid of changes. This attitude allows the city to grow and adapt to the future instead of dwelling in the past. And the Corten might be seen as a symbol of it.




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