Guide to Copper Weathering
October 29, 2008, 11:59 pm
Filed under: Architecture

Although generally familiar with the stages of weathered copper, we didn’t actually know the data behind the process.  Our architecture professors probably attempted to get this information in our heads at some point, but that was prior to the copper renaissance we’re seeing in modern architecture… and let’s face it – in school copper usually meant old Danish church steeples.  Having a new found curiosity about the weathering of copper we set out to re-educate ourselves.  Most important to us was the timeline in which copper turns from bright metallic pink to darker browns to the greenish turquoise.  We were aware that copper weathers differently in various climates, but again, we simply didn’t know the technicalities.  So we scoured the web, tracked down some data from a handful of great technical sites and have combined some useful information and color swatches into a quick reference guide.  We’ve also rounded up a few modern projects from the Pacific Northwest which are good examples of each stage.

Salmon pink copper: New panels on a house under construction in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood

Russet brown copper: Douglas-Truth Library in Seattle by Schacht Aslani Architects

[photo courtesy of Schacht Aslani Architects]

Chocolate brown copper:de Young Museum in San Francisco by Herzog & De Meuron

[photo Michael Layefsky on Flickr]

Light green copper:Marine Sciences Building on the UW campus in Seattle by Alan Liddle Architect

[photo by BUILD llc]

A great guide to copper weathering, projects, technical information and detailing can be found here.
Portfolios of award winning copper projects can be found here and here.


6 Comments so far
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That’s amazing. I have always wondered how long it actually takes for copper to change colors. Are there any ways to remove the light green surface once it has weathered?

Comment by duph

I attended a lecture by Marlon Blackwell while in school, where he explained that he used copper (the chocolate type) on a building in Arkansas and expected it not to patina to a green color. Something about the air in Arkansas doesn’t affect the material. At the time I didn’t believe him but I have no proof otherwise.
“Blessings Golf Course” project.

Comment by Jim

Jim – I’ve heard stories like that as well. They always have that urban myth feel to them, but I don’t have any proof either.

Comment by buildllc

in dry regions it takes a really long time for the patina to set in, and in many cases it doesn’t due to lack of moisture

vertically oriented copper weathers slower than horizontal, which weathers slower than sloped. i think that’s why the marlon blackwell won’t weather as quickly.

it can also be clear coated to preserve the salmon/russet/etc color.

one of my favorite copper projects is the type/variant house by vincent james

there is a really great book on this project for $5, used, on amazon…

einar jarmund (UW alum) recently finished a really interesting copper project in Norway

laajasalo kirk, Kari Järvinen and Merja Nieminen

ohel jakob synagogue, wandel-hoefer + lorch

the layered screen creates a wonderful effect when the sun is shining through

Comment by mike

Mike – that variant house by Vincent James is one hot piece of architecture. I’ve got the book on the way, thanks for the skinny. It’s funny that Svalbard, of all places, is on the architectural map with the seed bank and now the Science Center project. Nice.

Comment by buildllc

the type/variant book is one of my faves, a lot of quality pics, some details, sketches, plans and put togethor well. it should be the standard of all arch books, actually.

svalbard is in the middle of nowhere! i can’t imagine having weekly construction meetings there… the doomsday seed bank is really depressing – that we need to set up something like this for the “what if” scenario. the need will only become more obvious w/ genetically engineered and terminator seeds.

Comment by mike

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