Architectural Press Praises the Use of Zinc Composite at Brown University

For the university’s new Granoff Center for the Creative Arts

August 15, 2011 (Providence, RI) –When the new Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts at Brown University was completed this spring, New York Times’ 

The Center features 60,000 sf of Quartz Zinc from VMZINC®.

architecture critic Nicholai Couroussoff called the building a “handsome piece of architecture” and specifically praised the use of zinc composite panels for the exterior.

In the New York Times article, Couroussoff first observes that the 38,815-square-foot building, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DSR) in New York, “adds a touch of contemporary glamour to a campus of solemn brick buildings and converted clapboard houses. And it does so without the over-the-top effects that could offend its aesthetically conservative neighbors.”

A large part of the contemporary look of the $40 million Granoff Center is actually a centuries old, naturally occurring substance — 60,000 square feet of QUARTZ-ZINC – VMZINC® from Umicore Building Products USA, Inc. – manufactured by Alcoa. Zinc metal exterior rain screens fold around windows to provide views into the

"The panels... are gradually pulled into a three-dimensional pleat..."

building from the street and out towards nearby Angell and Olive streets in Providence from the interior.

“Seen from Angell Street, the wide horizontal bands of corrugated zinc that make up its wall give the building the look of a stack of super elegant shipping containers. The bands are pried up on several floors at the back of the building to reveal floor-to-ceiling windows,” Couroussoff wrote.

Quaint houses and a small lawn surround the building’s site to the south and west. “And the zinc bands echo the genteel clapboard siding of those houses,” Couroussof noted.

Elsewhere in the media, Cathy Lang Ho of Architect magazine, the official publication of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), commented on DSR’s “treatment of the zinc rain screen on the two exterior side walls: The panels…start out flat toward the front of the building and are gradually pulled into a three-dimensional pleat, scrunched up in a few corners to reveal some of the private rooms at the building’s rear, as if one was lifting the hem of a skirt.”

“But there’s much more to the use of zinc on the Granoff building than aesthetics,” said Daniel Nicely, director of market development for VMZINC® and an associate member of the AIA. “Not only does it allow architects to easily create interesting and innovative forms, it also contributes to the sustainability of projects like this. The zinc will last at least 100 years, very little energy is used in its manufacturing, and at the end of its use, it can be recycled indefinitely. We’re proud that our product played a major role in the design and sustainability of this beautiful architectural element on Brown University’s campus.”

For more information on the quartz-zinc used on Brown’s Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, go to

About Umicore Building Products USA, Inc:

Umicore is a world-leading producer of architectural zinc. For over 160 years Umicore has been providing innovative solutions for building owners, architects, and contractors. Umicore has offices and representatives all over the world. In the United States, Umicore Building Products USA, Inc., is based in Raleigh, North Carolina. For more information visit

One thought on “Architectural Press Praises the Use of Zinc Composite at Brown University

  1. leecalisti August 16, 2011 / 2:43 am

    I saw this project in person this past July 2011. At first it is unassuming and meekly sits on the Brown campus. The courtyard that faces it is a bit overscaled, but the large glass walls stand as a tv screen to watch the inner workings. The zinc rainscreen is interesting as it becomes a spatial element going from a flat metal screen into a pleated skin at the window openings. However after thinking about it further it is hard to understand if there is a purpose to the pleats beyond an architectural gesture. They don’t seem to act as a sunscreen or any other purposeful element. Perhaps I’m wrong. As an architect, I looked very close and noticed the gaps are large and the clips and rivets stand out. Poor detailing or craftsmanship…but the average person wouldn’t notice or care. Overall a nice project that doesn’t scream. Unfortunately, it was closed the day I was there and couldn’t see the interior. That may have made it even better.

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