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Yes, The New Brooklyn Nets Arena Is Deliberately Covered With Rust. No, It’s Not A Good Idea.
By: Jack Dickey
The material is Cor-Ten, a brand name of "weathering steel." Construction companies have mentioned the steel in their press releases, and a few sites covered the bankruptcy of the steel fabricator. But mostly nobody has paid attention to the corroded exterior. Leitch gave the building its most thorough examination yet in last week's New York, and he said of the place only that it was "hardly architecturally distinguished."
Yet weathering steel does distinguish the building. It plants it firmly within a dated and troubled architectural tradition, one that since the '70s has left a landscape of failed structures.
The material is supposed to be counterintuitive: What looks like neglect and damage is really a protective coat of corrosion. The otherwise unprotected steel naturally builds up rust on the outside, which keeps further oxidation from happening on the inside. Spreading across the pure, monumental curves of a Richard Serra sculpture, the rust forms a tough, stable, richly colored surface.
But when used on something more complicated and functional—such as a sports arena—this simple, natural material is incredibly finicky and unstable. Where the steel is welded together or there's space to catch water, the protective rust has a way of turning into regular old destructive rust. Atlanta's Omni Coliseum, which opened in October 1972, had a weathering steel frame. The structure never stopped rusting, the elements bored holes in the roof, and the city had to replace the building with Philips Arena 25 years later.
You'd think weathered steel would be the eight-track tape of metals, something we had ditched by the 1980s because we had better options. But the Nets are in Brooklyn now. In the land of fixed-gear bicycles and safety razors, outmoded mud-colored steel won't feel so alone.
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