I am super happy to be able to feature a new installment series on featuring architectural materials and their uses.

For the first post of the series, DMD aka dissimilar metal design ( graciously sent me images of their custom metal design pieces (found here on walls, ceilings and both in interior & exterior spaces). The most famous and notable use of this material can be seen in the outer cladding on the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. (To see the post on the Barclays Center click- here.)

The images pertain to these projects- 

  • Barclays Center-Brooklyn, NY, designed by SHoP Architects, 2012
  • Banner Gateway Medical Center-Gilbert, Arizona, designed by NBBJ, Seattle, 2007 

  • Leeum, Samsung Museum of Fine Art-South Korea, designed by AJN/Nouvell, 2001 
  • Guggenheim/Hermitage Museum-Las Vegas, Nevada, designed by OMA/Rem Koolhaas, 2001
  • Guggenheim/Hermitage Museum-Las Vegas, Nevada, designed by OMA/Rem Koolhaas, 2001

I asked them a couple of questions on their process from concept to full implementation. -

DMM- “How is it made?”

All metals originally come from ore that has existed in the earth’s crust for many millions of years. Once ore is melted to create what we know as metal, its natural tendency is to return to ore, its original and most stable state-hence oxidation. Dissimilar Metal Design uses this natural tendency to create patinas, which are more stable than the metal itself.

Over the last 30 years, we have researched the artistic applications of corrosion and oxidation. Initially developed as an art form.  DMD works with designers and architects to create unique finishes complimenting architectural design.

DMM- "Can you tell me more about the process of making and examples of it?"

Designing in weatherized metals is primarily done through two processes: The initial activation of the oxidation and the control of the wet / dry cycling.  These processes, which happen in succession, form the protective oxide layer.  

Creation of the correct initial protective oxidation is vital to not only achieving desirable aesthetic, but to ensure that the aging process is setup to take place at the right speed.  If the protective oxidation isn’t allowed to mature on the surface, other harmful forms of oxidation set in and the metal structure will oxidize away and ultimately need to be replaced prematurely.   The window for getting the protective rust to properly setup is extremely small and has taken us over 30 years to understand.  Despite our understanding today, we continue to invest a great deal in research to further our understanding of metallurgy, material science, structural engineering, and design.  

DMM- "How is it taken from concept to full-realization?"

DMD works with architects in order to determine first if weatherized finishes are appropriate for a design. In some cases, some structural or building envelope design changes will need to be modified to support the weight, drainage, and fastening needs of a DMD exterior panel system.

Once fit for applications are determined, we can begin to determine what type of metal oxidation is appropriate for the design. 

Being respectful to the surroundings and to the materiality is important to us.  Our products tend to be neighborhood and city landmarks, and we aim for these architectural pieces to compliment their surroundings.  Given the advancement in our understanding of rust, how it’s formed, and how to control the outcome - our products are now fit for purpose to a much broader range of projects than they ever were before.  

Once a material has been conceptually chosen and rendered by DMD and architects, the customer goes through the approval process.  In all cases, we invite customers to come out to WA and meet our team, get familiar with what we do, and how, and to a great extent get involved in the artistry and creation.  This engagement is something that we really enjoy and allows our discerning clients an opportunity to be involved in the end result.  

DMM- "I think that a lot of people are interested in the process of making and how the panels can be customized based on the project. Can you tell me more about this?"

As mentioned earlier, we know more today about metal oxidation than ever before. With 30 years of research, we can create aesthetics that vary from deep maroon steel oxidation to brilliant pitted black stainless steel and even wild mint green copper, and incredible etched aluminums.  Each patina type can be manipulated during its initial activation to achieve lighter or more aggressive pitting and surface coloring.  When setup properly and allowed to mature fully, our weatherized panels become stable on the wall, meeting the specification of the designers and not bleeding away over time. 

DMM- "Also, the weathering of the panels is intriguing since it becomes an actual process defined by time."

Raw metal patinas are indeed defined by time and they live in the form of sculptures, bridges, and buildings.  Our clients love the fact that there is natural variation in the materials and that it slowly evolves over time.  This evolution moves in harmony with its surroundings, aging gracefully and naturally.  Architects can specify any one of a myriad of wonderful building materials today, but few, if any material selections, can deliver the beautiful aging of metal patinas that continue to improve with age.  

I am a big fan of architectural materials that change based on the processes of time. This is especially intriguing when using this type of material. As you can see, it can be transformed and adjusted to most architectural concepts. Particularly notable is the Barclays Center since it takes the material to cover the entirety of its exterior surface.

Thanks Dissimilar Metal Design! For more information contact:


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