This stunning project could be considered sculpture but is actually a set of restrooms in the Lady Bird Lake park in Austin Texas. The large COR-TEN steel pieces form a spiral in plan that responds to the park’s landscape and topography. COR-TEN is a high-strength, low-alloy steel that has a high resistance to corrosion due to a reddish/orange/brown oxide that develops on its surface. COR-TEN is considered a ‘weathering steel’ where the surface quickly oxidizes from the environment and forms a dense protective barrier against further corrosion to the material. It never requires paint or any treatment due to the reddish/brown protective barrier.
I’ve always been a fan of COR-TEN steel but also find it has a limited place for use. It’s an acquired taste to be able to appreciate the natural patina of a material. Beauty of a material, to me, can often be found in its time-weathered, natural state — such as copper with its green/aqua patina. Many of us find charm, character and beauty in rust, peeling paint or weathered buildings. Here COR-TEN’s weathered state is not out of neglect but out of function, protection and beauty.