Tour the World of Copper

The finishing touch to any painting is its signature. When architects see a building they designed in the skyline, it's as if they've signed their city. Just as painters dream their art will live on for years, designers worry how their signatures will survive. One way to help ensure a long-lasting mark is choosing durable materials, like copper.


Architects around the world have used copper for hundreds of years. Nowadays, most people see steel as the standard material for buildings, but copper consistently plays a role in both traditional and cutting-edge design. Let's take a quick tour through Canada and beyond to get just a sample.


New Brunswick Legislative Assembly Building (Fredericton, NB)

The Legislative Assembly Building in New Brunswick (designed by J.C. Dumaresq) originally opened in 1882 and has recently gone under extensive restoration. One of the most exciting renovation projects is the 41-metre wide copper dome that towers over the rest of the building.


St. Patrick's Basilica (Montreal, QC)

During the Great Famine in Ireland (commonly known as the Irish Potato Famine), droves of Irish emigrated from their country to seek opportunity in North America. Montreal became a popular destination for these immigrants, and, in 1847, the city opened St. Patrick's Church to accommodate the new-comers.


Pope John Paul II later named the church a basilica, and it now has distinction as a Canadian historical monument. The restored roof creates a stark contrast to the traditional stone walls – copper batten seams and a new copper spire call attention to the beauty that this metal can give to an already beautiful building.


Library of Parliament (Ottawa, ON)

After 18 years of construction, the Library of Parliament opened to the public. While the building has undergone many renovation projects, you'll probably notice the new copper roof first. Officials recycled the original copper roof and used it in the Canadian War Museum's copper paneling.


Cathedral-Basilica Mary Queen of the World (Montreal, QC)

The famous Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral uses copper only as an interior feature. The Neo-Gothic cathedral is a National Historical Site of Canada and famously boasts a Victor Vincent reproduction of the baldachin (an altar) that sits in the center of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. This handmade altar has copper and gold leaf all over it.


Old City Hall (Toronto, ON)

E.J. Lennox, one of the most famed architects in Canada, designed more than 70 buildings in Toronto alone. The Old City Hall is one of these prized works, so renovators handle reconstruction very carefully. They haven't made very many major changes to the building, but they have renovated the roof. The originally tiled roof required constant care, and copper provided a low-maintenance solution.


Statue of Liberty (Liberty Island, Manhattan, NY, USA)

Our first venture out of Canada doesn't take us too far, and we couldn't leave out the US's Lady Liberty. Designed by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, the French government gifted the Statue of Liberty to the United States in 1886. This famous symbol didn't always look green; the copper oxidized and quickly turned its current colour. This verdigris began around 1900, and it covered the entire statue within just a few years.


Peix (Vila OlÃmpica, Barcelona, Spain)

Sitting high above Barcelona's former Olympic Park, Peix ("Fish") exemplifies Frank O. Gehry's fascination with the shape and movement of fish. The statue's swooping curves and copper-coloured plates captivate onlookers who travel to Barcelona from all over the world. You can see the large fish (about 35x55 metres) throughout the city, particularly while standing on one of Barcelona's beaches.


NEMO National Science Museum (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Like the Statue of Liberty, the NEMO stands out because of its unusual green copper façade. The science center (designed by Renzo Piano) sits between two rivers in central Amsterdam and has become one of the most popular and distinctive museums in the Netherlands.

Fujitsubo Beauty Parlor (Tokyo, Japan)

Completely covered in copper, the exterior of this Japanese beauty parlor is a sight to behold. The Fujitsubo ("The Barnacle") artfully uses copper to create intricate patterns by staggering the metal sheets from base to roof. The roof's three pyramidal sections each have a large skylight that allows natural light to flood the beauty parlor's interior.


"The Rock" at Wellington International Airport (Wellington, New Zealand)

The New Zealand's legend of Te Whanganui-a-Tara ("The Wellington Harbor") inspired The Rock's design. In the legend, two sea creatures lived in a lake, one gentle and the other wild. The more reckless creature, Ngake, wished to leave the lake for dangerous and exciting waters. Ngake's gentle friend, Whataitai, tried to follow, but he became stranded and died in the shallows. The adventures of these legendary creatures explain Wellington's rugged and dramatic shore, and The Rock mirrors that drama by using unevenly pleated and folded copper walls throughout its design.


So if you want to enjoy the beauty of copper, visit one of these beautiful buildings if your adventures take you near them.

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