Metalwork has been around for hundreds of years, and practices such as folding metal and bending metal to create 3D structures has created many breathtaking fabrications which we still see as art. Beyond the obvious uses in construction or engineering, these techniques are also used to make some of the most amazing sculptures and buildings you’ll see anywhere. In this article we’ll look at eight of the most impressive examples of metalworking. From an entire building made from steel panels to smaller creations like a dragon that bends its tail around itself, there are almost as many ways to use metalworking techniques as there are metals.
Whether it be old techniques like repoussé, new methods such as double reverse bend moment frame, or hybrid combinations like fish-mouth double reverse bend corner units, there are so many possibilities for artists and engineers alike!
The Architect’s Revolution: building-sized steel panels
The structural parts of an entire building can be made from steel plates and panels, which have many advantages over traditional building materials. For example, a steel building can be built up to 90% faster than a concrete building because the steel can be pre-assembled offsite and then lifted into place with cranes. It also has a higher strength-to-weight ratio than almost any other building material making it a number one choice for many buildings. MJ Patch, a steel work specialist company also tells us another major advantage of steel building panels: the ease of producing them whenever they are needed. This has been a life changing perception for architects who can design the most beautiful designs which would be impossible with conventional building materials like bricks, concrete, and wooden beams.
The iron dragon sculpture by Joanne Newman, who goes by the name “Dragon Lady,” was created using traditional repoussé techniques. The artist actually worked inside a real, live dragon, forming the steel panels inside the creature’s body, and then bent the surface of the dragon to create the 3D shape seen here. If you’ve ever wondered where the idea of dragons being made of gold came from, it’s because gold was one of the only materials strong enough to withstand the heat and pressure required to form the iron. The only materials strong enough to endure today are steel and titanium, which is what the artist actually used. There are many types of dragon sculptures, but this one is unique in that it seamlessly and completely bends its own body.
Art Museum in Spain
The Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León is a modern art museum in Valladolid, Spain, by architects Herzog & de Meuron. The building is made up of over 40,000 steel tiles, which are folded, stacked, and interlocked in a complex pattern to create the building’s structure. While the entire building is made of one single piece of steel, it is no longer one giant plate. Instead, the architects designed a system of beams and joints to hold the building together. The stacks of folded steel plates are held together with bolts and plates that are welded or bolted onto the plates from the outside. Some of the panels of steel even have holes in them so that light can filter through the building. The architects called this a “constellation of cubes.”
The Gherkin in London
The most famous building in London’s financial district is the 30-story Gherkin building. The tower was designed by architects at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and engineered by Arup. Engineers worked to get the most out of their materials, and they were able to create a building with smooth, flowing lines by building it with two pieces of material. The bottom 16 floors are made from concrete, while the upper 14 stories are made from steel. Arup was able to use different materials because they were able to bend the steel, which is rigid in tension, but flexible in shear. The architects also chose to build the Gherkin as a hollow tower with a concrete core. This meant that they could save weight and structure by not including stairwells and elevator shafts, while also reducing the amount of material required.
The Coptic Church in Egypt
The Church of the Virgin Mary in the Egyptian city of al-Abla is the world’s first 3D-printed building. The church was designed to be used as a mosque for a Muslim community, so the designers were tasked with creating a structure that was open and flexible enough to be used for multiple religious purposes. The designers decided to 3D print the entire structure, including the roof, out of steel to get the strength and flexibility they needed. The church has a structural system that is similar to a typical concrete building, except that the steel used to create the structure is printed from a 3D model. The printing process actually begins with a 3D model that is printed on a giant 3D printer.
Bending Metal to Create Unique Shapes
Bending does not just create 2D shapes, it can also be used to create 3D forms. This double reverse bend corner unit is designed to create a triangular shape, with two sides folded inward, creating a triangular corner. It is often used in architecture, but can also be found in furniture pieces, or as decoration. The technique is quite simple: you bend the edges towards the middle of the thickness, and then bend the corners inwards. This can be done by hand or with the help of a mechanical press. This method is used when you want to create a decorative structure or want to fit two pieces together. The bending technique can be done in many different ways, depending on the desired outcome.
Metalworking is an art form that has been practised by craftsmen since the beginning of civilization. From early tools and weapons made from simple metals to ornate sculptures and buildings constructed of steel and iron, this form of art has an impressive history and future. From the iron dragon sculpture to the 3D-printed church, metalworking techniques have been used to create breathtaking art. The only limit is the artist’s imagination and skill.