Zahner is an internationally acclaimed Kansas City-based metal fabricator. In year 2011, they decided to expand their existing facility ‘ Zahner Factory Expanison ‘ . The expansion ties into the northern façade of a 30 year old failing steel clad facility surrounded by a visually unappealing chain link fence. The whole design intent was to convert this area into a large column-free assembly space, with the volume for two large cranes to move materials, and make seamless connection to the existing factory circulation. The new addition is a 6,200 square foot high-bay fabricating studio with the intention of converting an underutilized area into a space that provides only partial opacity to showcase the company’s impressive, highly engineered manipulation of metals.

Courtesy of Crawford Architects

Courtesy of Crawford Architects

The form of the façade was inspired from metal oxidation patters found in the facility. The conceptual sketches drew from the multiple patterns that paid exceptional detail to the specific proportions and context of the expansion. Then the architects used algorithms to convert the conceptual sketches and atmosphere of the facade into a 3D digital model. The result is a form that extends out of the rigid geometry of the existing façade starting out from a simple uniform active motion that increases in complexity as it moves around the corner to the west – a small analogy to Zahner’s past and future.

Courtesy of Crawford Architects

Courtesy of Crawford Architects

What was exceptional about the façade is the utilization of the materials and collaboration of the technology made available by the client. The façade’s key components are vertically oriented fin made from a half-circle shaped aluminum extrusion riveted to a water jet cut 3/16” aluminum plate. These fins are commonly used as a structural backup system behind many of Zahner’s organic façades with a skin applied to their surfaces. But here, the skin is left exposed to help heighten the expression of the structural system. With the combined glass panel system, the result is a rippling surface that breathes a dynamic, young life into the surrounding environment.

By: Delia Chang

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