Someone sneezed and I landed everywhere, presumably to beautify our less than attractive urban fabric. You see, I provide instant visual gratification, largely because of the material with which I am clad, a special copper chromium alloy that turns a hip brownish orange color once exposed to the elements and rust begins to lap.
Architects love the material because it exhibits a unique capacity for authenticity, a term normally assigned to those things whose interior and exterior align. Lionel Trilling, the mid-20th century literary critic, went so far as to say that authenticity is precisely that which lives in “the here and now” and “needs no explanation.” Corten steel has this poetic and indeed authentic capacity to turn a negative into a positive, transforming degradation in the form of rust into a layer that protects against further erosion.
This is how the material appealed to Eero Saarinen, the midcentury Finnish architect, who in the early 1960s first used Corten steel in his design for the John Deere headquarters in Moline, Ill. What is working on the farm, he thought, if not authenticity itself, unpretentious and associated with core values, such as food and sustenance.