Corten steel is one of the most visually stunning and durable architectural metals you can buy. This clever and versatile material has come a long way from its humble beginnings, when it was designed for fabricating freight train carriages in 1930s America. These days, it’s used in some of world’s most impressive structures, sculptures and buildings. For today’s blog, we’ve picked out some of the most glorious examples of Corten steel architecture on the planet, the kind of designs that make you say ‘wow’ when you see them. Which one is your favourite?
1. The Revitalised Castle
In 2014, the spectacular Helfštýn Castle in the Czech republic was closed down to visitors because it was falling down. Crumbling masonry and eroded stonework made the huge 14th century palace unsafe to visitors. Fast-forward six years and thanks to designers Atelier-R, the grand castle was reopened with a network of stunning Corten staircases and footbridges. Weathering steel perfectly compliments the pale, rugged stone that makes up the ramparts and walls of this fairytale castle. Everybody loves a happy ending.
2. The Repurposed Power Plant
Tucked away just moments from Madrid’s art gallery giants the Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza and Reina Sofia is the lesser-known Caixa Forum. This cultural centre, with a vibrant roster of art and music events, is housed in the Spanish capital’s former power plant. Thanks to Swiss architects Herzog & Meuron, who also designed London’s Tate Modern, the old building has been transformed into a modern attraction with a made-you-look facade. Corten and the sandy original stone are a match made in architectural heaven.
3. The Dream Desert Retreat
Standing alone on Snowmass Mountain in Colorado, USA, Owl Creek is a true retreat, designed by Skylab in Corten to blend in with its rugged surroundings. In order to comply with height regulations, and to work with the natural slope of the location, architects chose a unique triangle design for the building. This triangle theme is repeated throughout the retreat; the Corten firepit and even the hot tub are triangular, rather than the usual circular shape.
4. The Ultimate Juxtaposition
In Croatia, architect Nenad Fabijanic created the ultimate contrast when he inserted this Corten steel module into the remains of an 18th century Baroque church. The ‘Summer Stage at Kastav’ is a project to revitalise the ruins of the church to create a venue for arts and music events as part of the town’s Kastav Summer of Culture festival. Weathering steel looks stunning against the historic stone. Inside the Corten part of the building, the architecture’s just as impressive, and even includes spiral Corten stairs.
5. The Mountain-Like Cultural Centre
OKE is a cultural centre and library in the heart of Ortuella, a former mining town in the Basque Country, Spain. The design for the building was created by Barcelona firm Aq4 Arquitectura, who wanted to pay tribute to the town’s industrial heritage. The huge, uniquely-shaped building, clad in weathering, is a nod to the area’s mining past. As well as the deep colours of the Corten steel evoking the orange shade of iron ore, the profile of the building is a nod to the region’s jagged mountains.
6. The Basket Weave Building
Award-winning architect Sergei Tchoban takes Corten steel architecture to a whole new level with this St Petersburg office block. Named Ferrum 1, the seven-storey block features a unique basket weave design on all four sides of its facade. The curved strips of Corten weave in and out of each other, giving the effect of the warp and weft of fabric. Part of the redevelopment of the former Rossiya factory in the city’s Polustrovo area, this standout building is a real head-turner.
7. The Volcano Visitor Centre
What materials make the perfect volcano museum? The Kemenes Volcanopark in Western Hungary informs visitors about the area’s volcanic past. When Foldes Architects designed the visitors’ centre, of course they reached for dark concrete to represent volcanic rock and rich, rusted Corten steel to symbolise lava.
8. The Railway Walkway
It might look like a fun waterslide, but this Corten creation is actually part of a fascinating walkway in France. Architects Reiulf Ramstad transformed the former Rosheim-Saint Nabor railway in Rosheim into ‘Chemin des Carrieres’ (‘Career Path’), an 11km route following the former train tracks. Corten steel is used throughout, for the walkway itself, plus a collection of pavilions and sculptural installations.
9. The Camouflaged Lookout
Perched on a limestone cliff in Texas Hill Country, Clear Rock Lookout is designed to be a writing studio and hunting lookout. The russet colours of Corten were chosen by architects Lemmo to help the cabin blend in with its surroundings. The use of the metal is also a nod to the owner’s former career in welding oil tanks. Whether it is used as a hunting lodge or a place to pen a bestseller, this unique retreat is a true one-of-a-kind place to stay.
10. The Colossal Forest Tower
In Gisselfeld Kloster’s protected forest near Copenhagen, Skovtårnet (Forest Tower) looms large. The helical tower, designed by EFFEKT using wood and Corten steel, allows visitors to marvel at various levels of the rich forest canopy. Measuring 45 metres tall and with a top viewing platform 140 metres above sea level, Skovtårnet gives its visitors fantastic views not just over the trees but to Malmo and Copenhagen beyond.