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Australian creativity 'steels' the show

2010. 15 March

The colour of the steel reflects the Australian environment.

( On May 1, 2010 the Australian Pavilion will take its place at the Shanghai World Expo. Using the iconic landmark of Uluru as the theme, the Pavilion is highly unique and represents a world first
in the way the facade has been custom designed to embrace the curvature of the building. Organisers of the World Expo expect the Australian Pavilion to attract more than seven million visitors over the course of the event.

Facade Solutions, a BlueScope Steel business, has provided the full package for the design, supply and installation of the Australian Pavilion facade. Facade Solutions worked with Wood Marsh Architecture and Bovis Lend Lease on the project. The Pavilion facade is built using weathering steel also known as ‘corten’, a unique material that will form a rust-like appearance within less than three months when exposed to the weather, giving an authentic colouring to the building exterior.

“We specifically selected weathering steel for the facade of the Australian Pavilion due to its unique durability, texture, patina and its ability to evoke the Australian landscape. The material is attractive as it acts naturally by changing character over time – evolving through various stages of patina. The Azure cassette system used enabled perfect alignment between panels, something that is difficult to achieve in the construction industry,” said Antony Martin, project architect, Wood Marsh Architecture.

The addition of alloy in the composition of the steel enables the development of an oxidised layer, also called patina, which will prevent further corrosion. The weathering steel facade will last generally over 50 years, and is effectively maintenance-free. “Weathering steel is a material that designers and artists are fascinated with. However, it is rarely used due to the technical complexities involved. Fortunately for us, BlueScope has an extensive knowledge of this material,” said Martin.

The colour of the steel reflects the Australian environment and the natural effects of Uluru in that it ‘blushes’ over time, making the colour of the Pavilion evolve over the course of the Expo. “Weathering steel is an ideal material for the Australian Pavilion building given the flexibility and precision that the product offers over and above any other material available on the market,” said Graeme Woolacott, construction manager (structure/shellwork), Bovis Lend Lease. “However, we were initially reluctant to use it due to the complexity and risks involved. Correct use of the material requires extensive collaboration between the manufacturer, architect and builder to ensure the design and construction of the building supports the material.” According to Woolacott, the project represents one of the most important buildings they have been involved with.

BlueScope’s Facade Solutions business is the first in Australia to provide cassette-style weathering steel panels.

These cassettes are formed using fully automatic folding machinery which allows absolute alignment between the steel panels due to exceptional precision (0.3 mm) and provides virtually unlimited customisation.

With its Facade Solutions team, BlueScope provides a single point of contact from project design to installation.

The Australian Pavilion has been designed to make the most of the opportunity presented by what is predicted to be the largest World Expo in history.