Rust Outside, Gold Inside: How This Russian Office Uses Weathered Steel

August 24, 2021



Micah Mongcal

Architecture firm TCHOBAN VOSS Architekten has recently completed Ferrum 1, a business center located in Russia’s historic port city, St. Petersburg. Ferrum 1 is the first building in Russia that utilizes weathering steel in its sculptural façade. This material is exceptionally durable, and has the unique ability to form a protective surface layer. Ferrum 1 follows a remarkable list of successful projects, including the Russian Pavilion for the Venice Biennale.

Corten steel building façade

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A historic location

The city of St. Petersburg is Russia’s cultural center, with a wealth of historical and architectural landmarks. Ferrum 1 stands on the former Rossiya machine factory, a vast industrial complex which itself had replaced leisure grounds for the royalty and nobility of prior centuries.

The design is conscious of the numerous transformations of the area, particularly during the industrialization of the entire country. The extensive redevelopment sought to replenish the natural elements in the site, which had once served as the center of social life for the residents in the area. The business center achieves a happy medium – it is neither smokestack production facility nor idyllic summer home, and its design weaves together the disparate threads of the country’s history.

The three-dimensional façade of the building creates the illusion of weaving.
Golden lift portals greet the visitor at the entrance.

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Materiality in architecture

The sculptural façade has a striking appearance largely due to the primary material used in its construction. Weathering steel (also known as Corten steel) is an exceptionally durable material, with the added benefit of controlled corrosion. The rust-red, velvety texture on the surface of the metal is the result of the corrosion process stabilizing over time, and forming a protective patina. The building’s central theme, “Rust on the outside, gold on the inside,” creates a two-tone concept throughout the interior and exterior, with a golden band of aluminum panels crowning the façade, and gold lift portals inside the central foyer.

The project’s name, “Ferrum”, is the Latin word for iron. It is a reference to the appearance of the façade’s material, as well as an acknowledgment of the site’s history as an industrial facility. With the cohesive and flowing structure of the building’s façade, the design portrays the concept of a controlled corrosion that protects a precious golden element.

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