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Zahner Factory

Through intensive design research, the form for the façade by Crawford Architects was derived from metal oxidation patterns inspired by those found on Zahner’s campus. The final graphite concept sketch drew inspiration from multiple patterns to create a form that was specific to the proportions and context of the expansion.

Once the sketch was complete, a computer based algorithm converted the sketch’s tonal values into a 3-dimensional digital surface model of the façade. The resulting form grows out of the rigid, solid geometry of the existing building’s east façade with a single sweeping motion, and increases in complexity as it moves around the corner to the west, paying tribute to both Zahner’s past and future.

Articulation of the abstractly based model was closely developed with Zahner’s engineers and utilizes a variation of the ZEPP (Zahner Engineered Proprietary Panel) system. The system’s key components are vertically oriented DT* fins made from a half-circle shaped aluminum extrusion riveted to a water jet cut 3/16” aluminum plate.

These fins are commonly used as a structural backup system behind many of Zahner’s organic façades with a skin applied to their surfaces. In this case the skin is left absent both exposing and expressing the structural skeleton beneath. Placement of the fins is every 24 inches on center with an Inverted Seam™ dry-set glass panel system in-between producing a structural curtain wall set on a cast-in-place concrete base.

The glass panel system not only provides transparency between the shop’s activities and the surrounding neighborhood, but also provides idealistic northern light into the assembly space. This light combined with a large structural bay (43.5’ wide) and the configuration of 2 (5 ton) cranes has led to increased productivity and production.

The result is a dynamic, rippling surface that breathes new life into the surrounding urban environment and showcases Zahner’s ability to act as a bridge between art and science.

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