Dancing Aluminium

The Pop Culture Museum, or MOPOP, was opened in Seattle in 2000 on the initiative of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. The non-profit project, formerly the Experience Music Project, is entirely dedicated to contemporary popular music, cinema, and visual arts. Annually it welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors to festivals, exhibitions, and concerts at its various venues. But the most iconic is the MOPOP main building with a futuristic facade made of aluminium and steel.
26 May, 2021
The name of the project is said to have been coined by Jimi Hendrix, but the building was unquestionably designed by the legendary architect, the mastermind of the deconstructivism movement and the Pritzker Award winner Frank Gehry, with its stunning curvilinear forms produced by Zahner company. Gehry turned to music for his inspiration for the building, going as far as cutting up several Stratocaster electric guitars, which would eventually serve as the building blocks of his design.
Image: MOPOP
The unique design required a creative approach and as a result, was one of the first projects to use ZEPPS; a Zahner patented technology for producing curvilinear and complex structures. The ZEPPS process consists of an aluminium support structure, clad in a layer of sheet metal, with a final metal layer to complete the assembly when installed onsite. Thus, large elements can be easily transported and quickly assembled.
Image: MOPOP
The process creates efficient forms, with minimal waste to ensure the ecological footprint of construction is minimal. The project resulted in 3,300 unique structures, clad in 21,000 metal sheets, with no two sheet of panel assemblies the same. The sheets include stainless steel, red interference-coated stainless steel and fluorocarbon-coated aluminium.
Image: MOPOP
The aluminium used in the structure was coated in fluorocarbon, which is also known as painted aluminium. Although this is one way of protecting the porous metal, it adds several steps to the process. Civil Engineering magazine has called it "the most complex exterior skin ever devised for a building."
Banner image: MOPOP