5 novel architectural applications for metal mesh screen systems

From folding façades to colorful LED displays, these fantastical projects show off the architectural possibilities of wire mesh and perforated metal panel technology.

March 13, 2013

Since the 1950s, architects have explored design possibilities with wire mesh and perforated metal panels in buildings. Until then, the technology had primarily been used for mundane construction applications like fences, concrete reinforcement, and lockers.

One of the earliest architectural installations of woven wire mesh—the elevator interiors in the Mies van der Rohe-designed Seagram Building in New York City—still adorns the spaces today.

Both metal mesh and perforated panels have become increasingly popular design solutions due to the sleek, modern aesthetic they afford and the multiple functions they serve. Installations commonly serve as one part art piece, one part security and safety barrier, protecting against everything from break-ins to falls to bomb blasts.  

Of course, the technology has advanced over the years and installations have become much more sophisticated. Here are five recent projects that represent that latest in woven wire and perforated metal panel systems.



1. ‘Folding’ façade turns LAPD’s eyesore into architectural showcase

Woven mesh and perforated metal panels have long been a popular solution for scaling down bulky concrete parking structures while simultaneously meeting security and safety requirements. They are a relatively inexpensive approach that can have a major impact on the viability of real estate developments—thoughtful parking garage design is often the linchpin of successful projects.

But while most metal-clad parking structures are quite mundane, the LAPD Motor Transport Division’s 800-car parking structure in downtown Los Angeles is anything but. Cladding four of the five stories is a series of vertically oriented woven wire mesh panels that cleverly fold in, out, and around cantilevered walkways that serve as the primary access to the parking levels. The 34 eight-foot-wide mesh panels are fashioned to a steel pipe frame that is attached to the concrete structure with horizontal members of varying length, creating the angular, folding aesthetic.

The panels are painted in a pattern of leaf-like forms with two tones of green (to represent the “greening” of L.A.) that provide a glowing effect at night when sprayed with light. Instead of getting an eyesore, the community gets a safe, well-lit parking structure that is a beacon of great design.

LAPD Motor Transport Division
and Main Street Parking
Los Angeles

Clients: City of Los Angeles, Bureau of Engineering for Los Angeles Police Department
Architect: John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects
Engineer (structural, MEP): TMAD Taylor and Gaines
General contractor: S.J. Amoroso
Metal panel system manufacturer: W.S. Tyler



2. LEDs shine at Translational Research Institute

Set in sunny central Florida, the 37,000-sf Translational Research Institute for Diabetes and Metabolism is veiled in a series of woven stainless steel mesh panels to help reduce solar heat gain and minimize glare in the workspaces while still permitting daylight and views. Flad Architects, Madison, Wis., specified a cube-shaped weave for the street-facing elevation that is highly transparent, with 74% open area, yet offers sufficient shading to meet the design requirements.

The installation is among the growing number of metal mesh projects to incorporate LED lighting for added visual effect and functionality. Advancements in both LED technology and metal mesh systems have led to increasingly sophisticated installations in recent years. For instance, some mesh system manufacturers offer the ability to display graphics and images, or even stream live video, using integrated LEDs.  
On this project, yellow LEDs were used to create a crisscrossing effect that is meant to reflect the advancements in research and technology occurring within the facility. As day turns to night, the building’s mesh-clad façade disappears almost completely, giving focus to the LED artwork and illuminated curtain wall behind the screen.

Translational Research Institute for Diabetes and Metabolism
Orlando, Fla.

Clients: Florida Hospital, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute
Architect: Flad Architects
General contractor: Brasfield & Gorrie
Metal panel system manufacturer: Cambridge Architectural


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