Green, patinated copper is the result of a natural aging process and has been coveted by architects and designers since ancient times. Copper does not react with water, but it does with atmospheric oxygen, forming a layer of brown-black copper oxide protecting the underlying metal.
When looking toward the sky in any major city in Canada and across North America, it is not uncommon to find a copper roof or wall cladding system. The metal has contributed to elaborate ornamental applications and complex architectural details on historic buildings for centuries, but why do architects and design teams continue to specify this material?
Until January 31, Canadian architects and sheet metal contractors are encouraged to submit their building projects for consideration in the North American Copper in Architecture (NACIA) awards program.
East of downtown Kingston, Ont., overlooking the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, the Royal Military College (RMC) is notable for its blend of modern academic, athletic, and dormitory facilities, with century-old buildings.
Structures across Canada are turning green in more ways than one. The Beaty Lundin Visitor Centre (Britannia Beach, B.C.), the University of Toronto at Mississauga Campus Instructional Centre, and Oshawa’s University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) are examples of buildings clad in copper—a material that naturally turns green, and is 100 per cent recyclable.
When an architect, designer, or specifier is asked what characteristics of copper they are drawn to, the answers can be intriguing. Some might mention the natural colour—from the bare, polished, salmon colour of new material to the mature, patinated, green of aged material—or the warmth copper and copper alloys bring to any assembly. Others might cite the lack of maintenance copper alloys require and their long lifecycle.
When first constructed in 1931, Trafalgar Condominium Apartments in Montréal had a significant presence along the city’s downtown skyline. Reaching 10 storeys, the numerous turrets, chimneys, and gable front dormers atop the brick building’s steep-pitched copper roof gave the residence an imperial appearance—similar to a medieval castle dating back to the turn of the century.
Historical buildings are central to Canada’s character and culture. Safeguarded at the federal, provincial, and municipal levels, these sites are granted special designations that dictate the manner in which they must be preserved and restored. In addition to the strong mandates of official heritage conservation, owners and interested parties often have a desire to preserve buildings’ historical integrity—both architecturally and aesthetically.
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