How Barclays Center Changed the Face of Brooklyn With Corten Steel

This month marks Brownstoner’s Steel Anniversary. We’re taking some time to look back at our past, even as we design a new future.

The weathered steel exterior of the Barclays Center made a statement that has since evolved into a popular trend.

The rusted steel alloy is more resistant to the elements than other steels, and gives the Barclays Center added moisture resistance. Often known by the trademark name COR-TEN, or Corten, the steel has the added convenience that no painting is required.

Barclays’ use of the alloy was groundbreaking, making the arena the first notable building in Brooklyn to use it extensively. Following architectural critics’ rave reviews regarding the stadium’s tortoise shell roof, the material is now commonly used throughout Brooklyn in new developments.

But it wasn’t initially popular with the public. Some objected to the raw, unfinished, industrial look of the building. Some worried the rust would drip down onto the sidewalk and stain it orange.

“I thought they were going to paint it,” one man told the New York Times in August, 2012.

To keep that from happening, Barclays Center designer SHoP Architects weathered the steel for four months in Indianapolis before the pieces were shipped to Brooklyn and installed.

When it finally opened in 2012, New York Times architectural critic Michael Kimmelman called the rusty steel building

a hunkered down, hunchbacked, brooding sight at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues. At first blush it’s a shocker, which is one of its virtues. Its rusted, reddish-brown exterior consists of 12,000 grainy weathered-steel panels, each one a little different, devised by the latest computer modeling: a digital-age extrusion of hard-core industrial glamour.

He went on to call it “an anti-Manhattan monument, not clad in glass or titanium but muscular and progressive like its borough” and noted the steel panels “mimic the disparate colors of neighborhood brownstones.”

SHoP principal Gregg Pasquarelli quipped in the Times the stadium was what would happen if “Richard Serra and Chanel created a U.F.O. together.”

The design won over critics despite its being part of the highly controversial Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park development.

Since Barclays Center opened, the rusty steel has become a popular material in new Brooklyn developments.

134 Vanderbilt Avenue. Rendering by ODA

An ODA design for 134 Vanderbilt Avenue in Fort Greene features rusty Corten steel panels on cubes jutting out from the building. AA Studios used it for the facades of a modern townhouse row in Red Hook.

146 South 4th Street in Williamsburg

In Williamsburg, 146 South 4th Street included touches of Corten steel in its large exterior cornices, and a glassy structure going up at 269–271 4th Avenue showed touches of rusty Corten steel on its top and base in a rendering released in January.

420 Tompkins Avenue in Bed Stuy

An apartment building designed by architect Charles Mallea for the corner of Tompkins and Halsey in Bed Stuy mixes Corten steel paneling with glass and concrete.

The Barclays Center and the subsequent popularization of Corten steel has now significantly influenced the changing face of Brooklyn, giving the borough just that much more rust coloring, and lifting the borough’s profile ever higher.

[Photos: Cate Corcoran]

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Originally published at on October 21, 2015.

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