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.
|Title of host publication
|Constructing Building Enclosures
|Subtitle of host publication
|Architectural History, Technology and Poetics in the Postwar Era
|Published - Jul 21 2020