Weathered steel, also known as corten steel, is an alloy of steel commonly used outdoors. Corten steel was designed to eliminate the need to paint. If left outside in the elements, it will develop a rusty appearance within just a few months.
Coal wagon manufacturers in America in the 1930’s noticed certain steel alloys developed a layer of rust that instead of corroding the steel, protected it. With the brand name Cor-Ten – an abbreviation for corrosion resistance, and tensile strength – these alloys soon gained popularity among architects (possibly the best example being the John Deere World Headquarters in Illinois, designed by Eero Saarinen) which persists to this day.
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Alloys continued to be developed to increase their strength and durability. In time, the name lost its hyphen and became a generic term. A corten steel wall is also known as weathering steel or weathered steel.
COR-TEN is a trademark owned by U.S. Steel. COR-TEN refers to two of this type of steel’s distinguishing properties: corrosion resistance and tensile strength. USS sold its discrete plate business to International Steel Group (now ArcelorMittal) in 2003, but it still sells COR-TEN branded material in strip-mill plates and sheets.
The original COR-TEN received the standard designation A242 (COR-TEN A) from the ASTM International standards group. Newer ASTM grades are A588 (COR-TEN B) and A606 for thin sheets. All alloys are in common production and use.
Why is Corten Steel popular?
CorTen is popular with architects and sculptors because of the exterior layer of rust that forms on its surface when conditions are right. The mute-reddish brown color of CorTen makes it stand out like the red rock faces of Utah, Texas, and South America. These naturalistic steel patinas look stunning on large, imposing surfaces.
Using this steel, certain design styles are possible because conjoined joints will fuse together as a result of surface rust. Because of this, steel is popular with sculptors, who can use it to create new shapes. However, even ordinary structures can benefit from the fusing quality of CorTen. If you were to build a steel structure from this material, it would become one solid piece within a year or two, ceiling to floor, making it extremely rigid and durable.
We explored some of the most famous Corten Steel Structures Around the World. As there are so many creative examples of how the alloy has been used in architectural projects the world over, we decided to put the spotlight on a few more eye-catchingCorten steel projects.