Stainless Steel for the People


Posted 30th November 1994


In late 1989 my partner Eric Kuhne was asked by Stuart Homery of Lend Lease to come out to Australia to work on the ground plane and lobby of a 28 storey office building about to start construction in Sydney. This building is the first of three towers and some foreshore development on the edge of the city centre at Darling Harbour. Our involvement in phase one led to the replanning of ground plane, lobbies, forecourt area, and addition of a large garden between the three towers, and a complete rework of the fore-shore development. The master plan continues to change most recently with a complete rework of the foreshore plans.



The changes and additions to the first phase of construction were driven by three ideas:

• restoring the ground plane as a place of human habitation rather than just a passage ideas.
• restoring the storytelling quality of architecture through the ornamentation and embellishment.
• treating the office building lobby as a series of spaces for communication and social contacts similar to those found in hotel lobbies rather than modern Sydney office building lobbies.

As a designer of buildings I am interested in ideas about how we use buildings, how to create place to enhance human life and in materials used in construction of these buildings.

In the design of buildings there are many points of view, tricks of the trade, theories and strategies. Designers tend to, fairly early in the game, separate their thinking about metal on or in buildings into two groups - yellow metals or white metals. We think of these metals as generally an either/or turning point fairly early on in the design process. Bronze and its variations and "silver" metals, like stainless, are rarely mixed by design architects.

Building precedents are powerful design influences and some precedents or models for the way I think about using stainless steel are:

• the glint from the St Louis Gateway Arch
• the British Art Centre at Yale with its stainless steel cladding
• the Louvre Pyramid - the structure and the rail finish on the circular stair within the pyramid

At Darling Park a "silver" metal finish was chosen and for most metal work stainless steel was selected. There are many variables in this decision, but amongst stainless steel's particular attributes were:

• stregnth; the round sizes we were using were only possible in stainless steel
• image as a quality material
• weatherability and durability, requiring little maintenance
• many rich and versatile finishes, achievable on a range of fabricated products
• because we were designing the ground plane, tactile attributes were an issue.

Many metal applications at Darling Park are within reach (handles, door furniture or other fixtures at ground level). Stainless provided a solid, quality sensation to touch. We think touching is good.

Finishes from mirror polish and finished stainless to a matt glass bead blasted texture were used for a combination of functional and aesthetic purposes. Major fixtures constructed from stainless steel include:

• canopies at main entrance, forecourt entrance and cafe
• the Broglas & grilles
• globe and gull atop flagpoles
• the entry doors, door pulls & mat
• handrails & balustrades
• the glazing system supports
• lift cars, interior & exterior panels & fixtures
• skylight glazing supports
• exhaust vents
• interior and exterior clocks
• safety strips in the steps
• lighting fixtures
• numerous trim & furniture details.

Lissel Pilcher