Photo Credit: University of Chicago

Earlier this month, winners of the inaugural Metal in Architecture design and construction project photo competition were announced at METALCON 2021 in Tampa, Florida. Long time exhibitor and METALCON sponsor, ATAS International, Inc., took home the grand prize for the work they did on the recently completed David Rubenstein Forum at the University of Chicago. Along with the special recognition at the show, they were awarded $1,000, which they generously donated back to METALCON’s “give back” charity, Feeding Tampa Bay. Completed in 2020, the Forum is a 90,000 square foot facility designed by architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) and built with a vision for intellectual, institutional and academic exchange.

The Building’s Design and Why Zinc Panels?

DS+R founding partner Elizabeth Diller comments, “As our first building in Chicago, the David Rubenstein Forum presents a unique challenge: to imagine a contemporary place of discourse for all of the University’s constituent departments and institutes as well as invited scholars and dignitaries from around the world. The new building will combine a variety of spaces, both formal and informal, large and small, calm and animated, focused and diffuse, scheduled and spontaneous. The Forum’s unique position on the Midway will allow for expansive views toward the campus and surrounding communities as well as downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan.”

Over the summer, the building was also unanimously awarded the 2021 Metal Architecture Design Award in the Sustainable Design category, citing the building orientation, window-to-wall ratio and its use of zinc panels. According to Metal Architecture, “For the project, ATAS International Inc., Allentown, Pa., custom fabricated 60,000 square feet of flat lock and Shiplock panels with 1-mm Gray Zinc supplied by Tuschall Engineering Co. Inc., Burr Ridge, Ill. Additionally, DAMS Inc., Alsip, Ill., fabricated 7,000 square feet of 4-mm Reynobond ACM FR rainscreen in a Natural Brush finish from Arconic Architectural Products LLC, Eastman, Ga. The backup structure is the Nvelope support system by SFS Intec, Wyomissing, Pa., which is 100% aluminum and recyclable. The insulation is mineral wool made from igneous rock, which does not need any additional treatment for fire or mold and is also 100% recyclable.”

According to ATAS, zinc was favored because it is a natural and durable material that is timeless and creates its own patina, which protects the material for a long time. The vertical zinc panels accentuate the height of this building and were chosen to express the idea of connectivity on the façade. 

The stacked and rotating organization destabilizes the more generic concepts of front and back and enables the building to provide sweeping vistas of campus, the city and Lake Michigan.

The Forum also boasts a striking 35-foot cantilever, which shelters the 60th Street entrance, blurring the distinction between inside and out, and supporting the project’s goal of encouraging the outward engagement of scholars and dignitaries from around the world who will convene within its walls. The building has been awarded LEED Gold status for sustainable design, given the building’s close connection to the outdoors via biophilic design that brings natural lights and views of the surrounding landscape into almost every space. (Credit:: University of Chicago)

According to the Chicago Tribune, “The architecture is the building’s calling card. While the building is tall, at 166 feet, it does not upstage the university’s prime symbol, the 217-foot Rockefeller Chapel across the Midway. Instead, the design offers a contemporary counterpoint to the Gothic Revival chapel. Scalpel-like diagonal incisions accentuate the visual drama of the building’s cantilevers and create pleasing textures and shadow patterns in the zinc panels that cover the massive concrete side walls. The panels and other details add a hint of verticality, like pinstripes on a suit.”

More on the Architects

Diller Scofidio + Renfro is an interdisciplinary design studio that spans the fields of architecture, the visual arts, and the performing arts. DS+R’s recent and ongoing architecture projects include the High Line park, the redevelopment of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the expansion of the Museum of Modern Art, and the new start‑up the Shed, all in New York; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; the Broad, Los Angeles; the Museum of Image and Sound, Rio de Janeiro; Zaryadye Park, Moscow; and the United States Olympic Museum, Colorado Springs. The studio’s recent art projects include Musings on a Glass Box for the Fondation Cartier and Charles James: Beyond Fashion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

More on ATAS International, Inc.

ATAS International, Inc. is a family-owned business that went from a siding and trim installer to an industry leading manufacturer of metal panels for the building envelope, with locations across the United States. Aluminum Trim And Shapes was founded in 1963 by Jacobus “Jack” P. Bus in his home’s basement in Rochester, NY where he and wife, Nel, and children resided. Today, ATAS has two locations in Allentown, as well as facilities in Mesa, AZ and University Park, IL. BRIGHTSMITH Coaters, a sister company of ATAS, acquired their coil coating facility in Morrisville, PA in 2008 and their post-painting facility in Trenton, NJ in 2016. ATAS product categories include metal wall cladding, metal roofing, ceilings, perimeter edge metal, and accessories for commercial and residential buildings.