IN-Review: Architecturally Exposed Structural Steel

IN-Review: Architecturally Exposed Structural Steel

Contemporary Architecture seeks for lightness in structure and of course, the use of fast working materials and one that might provide dynamic surfaces in design. Steel, has become more and more utilized worldwide and used aesthetically as an architecturally exposed manner, no matter the size of the building. Dynamic structures designed by firms like Zaha Hadid Architects, Coop-Himmelblau, Frank Ghery Architects and many other Starchitects, require the use of highly specialized software and dedication in order to build error-less structures that will thereafter receive the panels that create those amazing shells.

Designing buildings with steel exposed to the elements tends to be risky when utilized near highly corrosive areas (marine) which require specialized treatments and fire protection, a reason for which steel manufacturers and structural consultants are recommended for this type of work.

This book which includes specifications, connections and details of many architecturally exposed steel designs, resumes everything there is to know regarding all processes of design, manufacturing and construction using this material and strategy, including today’s softwares required for the achievements of such complex designs.

meyer-boake, terriAuthor Terri Meyer Boake BES, B. Arch, M. Arch, LEED AP, who specializes in building construction and structures, teaching since the early 1980’s, has provided this third book on steel published by Birkhausser, including one on “Diagrid Structures: Systems, Connections and Details” and “Understanding Steel Design: An Architectural Design Manual”.

Terri’s knowledge on steel as an Architect, is broadly expressed here through texts and images from her very own lens, narrating the fundamentals for understanding Exposed S.S. Concentrated in 9 Chapters using around 30 examples of building, bridges and canopy profiles from around the world.

Onwards to the contents of the book, I must state that the selection of a building’s material following its intended design language and desired performance, requires certain criteria. If one’s intention is the use of concrete on the building, this material has it’s own specificity regarding consistency, color, finish, etc. Steel has a completely different story. As concrete is good in compression, steel is amazing in tension and at the same time is more vulnerable to the elements than concrete is, even more when exposed.

Meyer defines Architecturally Exposed Structural Steel (AESS) as “steel that must meet two requirements: it must be designed to be structurally sufficient to support the primary needs of the structure of the building, canopies of ancillary structures, while at the same time being exposed to the view and forming a significant part of the architectural language of the building.”

AESS3Various AESS categories are explained on Chapter 2 ranging from the most simple elements (AESS 1) to the most complex and custom designs (AESS 4 & C) and each of them having certain requirements on all the manufacturing and finishing stages of the elements. Once the structure is centered on one of the categories, it is here when specifications and details change from one or the other. One important detail about this Chapter is that according to how the user is located and the distance he or she is visually connected to the Steel element, is how the categories work. There are certain welding finishes we do not wish to see so up-close but work perfectly if the weld is located higher off the ground of away from viewers.

AESS2Chapter 5, covers Coatings & Protections, the very essence of how to protect and finish exposed steel and which products to specify according to its climate including the processes of galvanization, metallization and weathering steel or “living steel” (highly recommended to read on this book). References range from priming to finishing, including fire protection topics explaining Spray Fire-Resistive Materials (SFRM) and Intumescent Coatings, which are very punctual and precise when defining these necessary terms. The comparison between shop vs site applied coatings is also cleared up with pros and cons between each other.

AESS1Did you know that the thinner the weathering steel sheet is, the faster is corrodes?

After the Coatings and Protections Chapter, follows Member choices, Connections, Specialized Connections and Custom Fabrication; each chapter intertwined with the idea of how detailed you need your AESS or the viewing distance from the human eye for welding specification.

This book and all others from this collection are highly recommended on INmatteria® for all Architects and Architecture Students who wish to immerse into the steel world and specify accordingly with the design intentions. “Architecturally Exposed Structural Steel”, must be on the top shelf of all Architects intended to have a pleasant conversation with the Structural Engineering Consultant, as all we need to focus is on the detailing of the structural system, and calculations will be addressed by the consultant.

Go ahead and click on the links below to get your copy on the mail today or check out INmatteria®’s bookstore at Amazon for more great books on materials, architecture and science.


Review copy provided by Birkhäuser Publications.

Architecturally Exposed Structural Steel: Specifications / Connections /Details Book Cover Architecturally Exposed Structural Steel: Specifications / Connections /Details
Terri Meyer Boake
Construction Materials

A book completely printed on acid-free paper, produced from chlorine-free pulp and talking all about steel's beauty.

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Mabelle Plasencia

Founder and Editor at INmatteria©
• Architect | LEED AP BD+C, with an intense passion for materiality, innovation, technology and science. • Arquitecta | LEED AP BD+C apasionada por la materialidad, innovación, tecnología y ciencia.