|A bright, shiny... er... dingy, rusty... (Getty Images)|
The New York Times reported Monday that the conceptual gleaming, shiny altar to modern design that was the Barclays Center' exterior has been replaced by a brownish-orange/orangish-brown drab slate. The reason? The exterior is coated with...
“weathering steel,” and that leathery brown hue, which is the arena's final finish, is not paint but an intended layer of rust.
Weathering steel — often known by its old brand name, Cor-Ten — develops a fine layer of rust, which then acts as a protective coating against moisture, slowing its own corrosion process almost to a stop. While it can look suspiciously unfinished to the casual observer, it has many fans in the world of art and architecture.
This industrial, raw-looking material can be seen on a smattering of homes in and around New York City, and though they may be vastly different in design, scale and method of construction, they all have one thing in common: a fiery apron of orange on patches of the pavement below. That is because especially in its early life, weathering steel drips.
Deadspin dug into the topic and found that overtime, this isn't a really great plan.
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.
Things were even worse at the New Haven Coliseum, which opened in September 1972. I got to see it from the inside in 2001, because my youth hockey team was practicing there. That's how bad it had gotten. Within a little more than a decade of its opening, the steel in the parking garage had rusted to the extent that the concrete it supported would crumble and fall on the street below. The rusty runoff also stained the glowing logos on the building's front, the ones you could see from Route 34.
By 2002, the building—which had once hosted AHL teams, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Billy Joel, Queen, Van Halen, WWE, and scores of other superlative guests—was closed. It sat empty five years, until the city could find the money to demolish it. In its place now sits a parking lot. Sure, economic factors and new competitors helped do the Coliseum in, but the architecture was so bad and dated that New Haven decided it'd rather go ahead without an arena. A New Haven Register columnist said that the place had "a face only a steel worker would love."
Deadspin points out that the rust is in no way being used for structural support. So the roof's not going to fall in. Furthermore, the effects take place over a 25 year span. We live in a world where most arenas are defunct after fifteen. Insane, but it's what it is.
Additionally, you have to think that the center's architects have considered all these problems and have plans to deal with the issues.
It's just not the gleaming, beautiful exterior you would have imagined, right?
But what really caught my eye was the end of this from the Times piece:
In addition to its texture, its dynamism and its drippings, weathering steel has another dimension that was richly on display at the Greenwich Street town house last week. Against the steel's shimmering grays and giant streaks of reddish rust, there were a dozen or so tiny black circles, squares and triangles, each no more than an inch across, clinging to the lower portion of the slab.
They were magnets, presumably tossed onto the facade by a mischievous passer-by.
Someone needs to test this, right? To see if there's some sort of treatment to make it impossible to put magnets on it, right? Because if you can... and the Knicks are opening the season at Barclays on Halloween...
Note: This would not actually work, for a number of reasons.