The Emergence of Aluminium
At the beginning of the 20th century, aluminium was not widely used in architecture and engineering applications due to cost. But at the beginning of the 1920’s, thanks to innovations in the production process, the cost of aluminium was reduced by 80%. As a result, the metal became popular for structural applications, as well as for use in numerous building components including doors, windows, sliding, roofing, curtain walls, sun shading, flashings, balustrades and in decorative applications - to name just a few.
Landmark Architectural Applications
Aluminium was notably first widely used in the construction of New York’s Empire State Building. Completed in 1931, it remained the world’s tallest building until 1970. The building’s basic structure and components were completed in aluminium, with the interior and lobby also finished with the material.
Throughout the mid-20th century, iconic architects experimented widely with aluminium. One of the most interesting early examples of modernist architecture employing the material was the Aluminaire House, the first all-metal house in the United States, designed by Lawrence Kocher and Albert Frey. Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion house is another example, notable for its experimentation with lightweight aluminium alloys that demonstrate high strength to weight ratios.