Metal Screen: Modern House Detail

Bob Borson —  October 24, 2011 — 18 Comments

Stainless Steel Screen

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Things are really starting to heat up on our modern infill project and so I thought I would focus on one of the exterior finishes before most of the attention turns towards the interior for a while. This is the stainless steel metal screen that is very prominent on the front elevation, covering the large window just above the front door. This screen element has been in place early on from the schematic design phase.

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Sale Street Schematic Screen sk01.

This is a sketch I drew up while sitting at a conference from almost three years ago. I knew that in order to make this screen look the way it needed to look, it had to be incorporated into the structure of the building rather than looking applied after the fact. It was also important that the way the screen be built be reflected in the design – a concept that is very important to me.

 

Sale Street Schematic Screen sk02

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This sketch just above is pretty explanatory even if it isn’t a work of art. Maybe if I knew that I would be using it here, explaining the design and construction process I would have drawn it differently (I can understand my thought process with fewer strokes than what others might need). All that having been said, it is still an efficient diagram of the final product and how it was assembled.

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Entry Screen - stainless steel framing

This is the front entry way … looking at the large window, all that is in place are the long vertical members. You can see that the stainless steel members are welded to beams up above the soffit and align with the window mullions.

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Entry Screen framing

In this picture, the horizontal members have been added. In the picture above, this is the corner of the front window. There is a detail here that I think is pretty interesting and was important in the original design concept and assembly technique. Lets take a closer look…

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Entry Screen framing

You can see on the horizontal members that there are square notches at a regular interval. These are the spaces where the square stainless steel rods will get placed. The spacing is just under 4″ and the rods themselves are 3/8″ x 3/8″.

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Entry Screen framing

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Stainless Steel Entry Screen Front Elevation

Everything is in place (well, as far as you know it is…) This is what the stainless steel screen looks like once all the pieces are put in place.

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Stainless Steel Entry Screen Detail

A close up look at the 3/8″ square stainless steel rods … that zinc standing seam metal siding behind the screen. If you missed the post on the zinc siding, you can play catch-up and read about it here.

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Stainless Steel Entry Screen Detail

If you were walking up the front steps and about the ring the bell on this house, this is the view you would get. Part of the reason we installed this screen was to provide visual interest at the front elevation, but that’s not the most important reason. This house is pretty large and we have made many moves so that the scale of the building fit in well with the other houses in the neighborhood. The screen provides another layer of scale to the massing and helps bring the size of the entry component down to human size.  The layering of the different materials and the size of their pieces will help the building be readable to people viewing the house from the street.

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Stainless Steel Entry Screen Detail

This photo is looking up at the backside of the stainless steel screen between it and the zinc siding.

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Stainless Steel Entry Screen Detail - shadows

This picture probably doesn’t mean much to anyone other than me but I took it because of the shadow on the wall. I spent a lot of time trying to determine just how far the rods would extend down beneath the lowest horizontal support member. I built several 3d variations of this screen and entry wall in SketchUp and the shadow studies I looked at eventually helped me make my decision. When I was on-sight and saw the shadows seen above, I thought I had made the right decision.

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Stainless Steel Entry Screen Front Elevation

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The latest look at the front entry. There is a handrail that is very similar in design to the entry screen that will eventually wrap the roof top terrace you can see on the upper left-hand side. In addition, the landscape will make a huge impact on this project … right now the house looks like it landed on this site from outer space.

Cheers

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=513264547 Yousif El Helw

    Personally, I would’ve opted for a wooden screen premised on a ‘mashrabeya’ – especially having been raised in the Arab world where they were of great use where temperatures soared to above 40 degrees celsius.

  • http://theartofwhere.blogspot.com/ archaalto

    Hey Bob–nice work again as always!
    just curious though-did you ever consider a more “off the shelf” approach to this screen?  my first inclination is that this looks great, provides a level of fine detailing, accomplishes the “layering & scaling”, and the stainless steel looks fantastic…

    but I can’t help but wonder if a stainless or galvanized bar grating could’ve accomplished the same thing, along with a greater level of privacy, shade, etc.  i’m sure you looked into all the pricing & labor alternatives, but more than anything I’m curious to hear if there were any other factors in your design process [not mentioned in your post] that led you to this end result of material selection and degree of transparency.

    Thanks.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      We did look at of the shelf components but we weren’t able to control the size of the framework as specifically as we wanted to. We also took a long look at using a metal curtain type product but felt that created too much of a visual barrier between inside and out.

      In the end, we decided that what was best was to try and reduce this screen into as few parts as possible (we got it down to three). Another consideration that I haven’t made a big deal out of is that this screen also has to work with the handrail/ guardrail that wraps around three terraces we have. It may not sound like a lot but the different sizes, shapes and configurations of the handrails, guardrails and screen walls made the process of designing something that looked really simple (but in fact is really complicated) a quite the process. 

      This might also not be the most politically correct thing to say, but if you are going to design a multi-million dollar custom house, “off-the-shelf” isn’t generally a goal. I would compare it to showing up at the homecoming dance and 5 people are wearing the same outfit.

      • http://theartofwhere.blogspot.com/ archaalto

        totally understand about the custom thing-a custom house usually calls for a custom solution.  i do like the delicate quality of the screen–makes you look twice.

        and in all fairness, Bob, i think those 5 guys were the starting players on the basketball team that didn’t have time to go home & change after the game…

  • Anonymous

    Nice Bob. Real nice. And I love how you just sit at a conference table and bat out a detail. When done I can just picture you then placing your scale tightly across the rolled out paper with one hand and with the other pulling up the paper, making a clean rip and handing it to the fabricator with a “Here ya go!”.

    But don’t let my wife see the screen because she’d wonder how the glass gets cleaned but I love it!!

    Doug

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Thanks Doug,

      Believe it or not, we did spend some time discussing how the windows might be cleaned once these panels were in place. It won’t be easy or particularly pleasant but it will be possible. The distance between the glass and the rods is approximately 18″ , small, but enough to get a window cleaning brush on a pole up there.

      Any further away and I think the effect would be lost – it would certainly be more unlikely that the lighting effect we are going for in the evening would diminish. As they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating – we’ll just have to see how this one goes.

      Cheers and thanks for taking the time to comment

  • Nancie

    At first I thought, “Oh, no!  He’s gilding the lily.”  Then I got to the last shot and totally dig the screen.  One observation, though.  If I were standing underneath those “spikes” hanging above the entry, I might get just a little nervous.  The solution?  Lime Green Tennis Balls, of course!  And think of the opportunities for Halloween decorations.  Or a Christmas diorama?  Oh, yeah.  Forgot that this was all about integrating this home into the rest of the neighborhood.  Never mind.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      maybe that’s what the neighborhood kids will do instead of toilet papering the house…

      I didn’t ever think that the rods hanging down over the entryway would be disconcerting for some – if it helps, (it’s hard to tell in these photos) they are 3 feet above your head so you won’t feel like you need to duck or anything. 

      Cheers!

  • Gibber

    I love the overall massing and material palette of the home as well as the well detailed, delicate, gauzy veil, though I’m not quite sure the screen breaks the scale down as intended. The last image (taken from across the street?) shows that the screen virtually disappears at that distance and only the shadows of the horizontal support members are apparent. What was the deciding factor to go with the 3/8″ square instead of a larger dimension? Is the screen at all performative as a shading device (I’m assuming this is a southern exposure?)? Regardless, this is an excellent project and I look forward to see more progress, especially on the interior!

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Gibber,

      I understand what you are saying bu the screen is far more prominent when you are standing in front of it rather than looking at this picture. The difference between this assembly of parts and photos at 72 dpi is considerable.

      This elevation faces the southeast so there is actually very little direct exposure that we are concerned about. More than anything, it will play it’s largest role at night.

      • Gibber

        Got it…better experienced in person. Took a group of architecture students to Dallas last spring. Maybe if we head back that way, we’ll hit you up for a tour. Nice project!

        • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

          just let me know and I’ll see what I can work out

  • Gibsonarchitect

    Hi Bob,
    Nice details, but I have to ask – are all the parts welded together? Would it not have been easier to prefab it and install as 1 or 2 pieces?
    Cheers, Stephen

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Stephen,

      For the most part, there is a sort of economy of construction taking part. There are three pieces that make up the screen – all the horizontals match, same for the verticals and the rods. Snce the members are so thin, I would imagine that trying to assemble it off site and bring it in would have actually been far more difficult and the likelyhood that some members would get damaged or bent in transport a real problem. As it was, it came together in hours.

      Cheers – thanks for posting a comment

  • Robert Ross

    Love the look and the house. I’ve been following it. This time of year is heavy cobweb season here in Atlanta, did you take owner maintenance into account during the design process? Just curious.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      The owner probably didn’t but we did discuss it. The front entry screen is playing off the same components that make up the handrails that surround the the roof terrace and the two interior courtyard terraces. Initially we looked at having glass rails but the owner didn’t want them – all other handrails involved code compliant vertical rails spaced no further apart than 4″ on center. This spacing is determined as the maximum spacing allowed that a small child can’t stick their head through (and get stuck).

      A consideration on a house this size is that the owners rarely maintain it themselves and so some considerations are not as involved as they would be if I were designing this for someone like myself to occupy. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/gits.standalone Suong Chong

    Hello. I’ve been reading through your past and recent posts in the past month or so trying to devour as much information as I could. Your writing style is very charming and quite informative! Thank you for sharing your personal expertise and insight in the field of architecture and design in general. It has helped me finalize my decision to switch majors (currently a 2nd year Civil Engineer.) The Architecture program here is impacted so I may not get in, but I’ve read that you can get a B.S. in Civil then go directly for a Master of Architecture. Do you think this is a viable pathway? I’ve also read that many if not most M.Arch programs require a submission of a portfolio for entry consideration which I wouldn’t have as a Civil.

    Also, this modern house project seems to be coming along nicely! Amazing how the addition of a screen can change the character of the building so much. The attention given to the shadows provides very nice geometric proportions!

    Thanks for this post and all the others before it! Looking forward to countless more!

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Thanks Suong –

      I appreciate your nice words on the house, I’ll respond to your other question to your email a little later.

      Thanks,
      Bob