Cladding the Palazzo Lavoro

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


During the Great Depression, architect Wallace Harrison first utilized aluminum as a cladding material in his role as the chief designer of the massive Rockefeller Center complex in New York City. Following World War II, his firm was commissioned by Alcoa to aid in the design of aluminum cladding that could be replicated as a marketable product. In Harrison’s case, authorship of specific cladding designs was challenged by the transversal relationship that existed between designers inside and outside of Alcoa. Concurrent to Alcoa’s initiative, Reynolds Aluminum aimed to associate modern architecture with aluminum, amplifying their claim that aluminum possesses natural beauty. The effort included collaborations, advertising and books. This chapter focuses on the design and production of mid-twentieth-century aluminum cladding, arguing that decorative treatment was consciously imbricated in what it meant to be modern. A central character is a curtain and screen wall system design by Minuru Yamasaki for Reynold’s Detroit region office building, a novel system that warrants recognition in light of the collaborative dynamic.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationConstructing Building Enclosures
Subtitle of host publicationArchitectural History, Technology and Poetics in the Postwar Era
EditorsClifton Fordham
ISBN (Electronic)9780429296963
ISBN (Print)9780367276287, 9780367276256
StatePublished - Jul 21 2020
Externally publishedYes


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