January 2002

Copper-clad Condos Cap Ann Arbor’s Ashley Mews Building

Copper Applications in Architecture

By Kurt Miska

Copper and architectural bronze add visual warmth to the combined office/retail condo structure.

The Ashley Mews office complexFigure 1. The Ashley Mews office/condominium/penthouse complex in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan. The uppermost two floors, housing the building's condominium penthouses, feature extensive use of copper and bronze cladding. Owner: Syndeco Realty Corp.; Architect: Luckenbach|Ziegelman and Partners, Birmingham, Michigan.

In Ann Arbor, Michigan, there is a saying that goes something like: "If you don't like the weather, wait ten minutes and it'll change." Many building materials do not take kindly to some of the weather extremes experienced in this famous university town. However, copper, along with its colorful and equally durable bronze and brass alloys, is one notable exception. Now, as the winter of 2001-2002 gets underway, Ann Arbor has a new building that will put plenty of copper to the test.

As Ann Arbor continues to experience favorably economic growth, there is a growing demand for both office and luxury living space. To help meet those needs, Syndeco Realty Corporation, a subsidiary of DTE Energy, undertook, beginning in 2000, construction of a new multiuse complex on South Main Street, right in the heart of town.

Syndeco Realty wanted a building that not only fit in comfortably with the historic surroundings, but one that would also offer the luxuries and amenities demanded by the expected residential clients. Under the competent architectural hands of Birmingham, Michigan-based Luckenbach|Ziegelman and Partners, a handsome building soon began to take shape. Its owners named it the Ashley Mews Development after James Ashley, a native railroad pioneer. The building's nine stories of offices and retail stores are topped off with eight two-story penthouse condominiums ranging in size from 2,000-5,000 square feet (232-464 m2).

Bronze-clad side entranceFigure 2. Bronze-clad side entrance welcomes penthouse owners and guests at Ashley Mews. The brick and granite entrance area also features several handsome bronze bannisters (inset).

eigth-floor walkwayFigure 3. An eigth-floor walkway, providing access to the condominiums' terraces, makes extensive use of copper and bronze cladding. The 20 oz/sq ft copper, used for exterior walls has already begun to take on the warm reddish brown hue that will eventually lead to a natural gray-green patina. Columns, clad in bronze, will remain golden brown
View through one of the penthouse windows Figure 4. View through one of the penthouse windows shows the interesting use of copper as exterior wall cladding for the Ashley Mews building's uppermost floor. A portion of one of the eighth-floor walkway's bronze-clad columns is seen at lower left.

The handsome front and side doors greeting visitors entering Ashley Mews are bronze-clad over aluminum. If you're one of the fortunate penthouse owners, you not only enter your dwelling through these doors, but you can maintain a firm grip on solid bronze railings while ascending the steps to the residential lobby.

Take the elevator to the eighth floor and you arrive at the two-level penthouses, which are set back from the rest of the building. Several doors on this level open to outside terraces that surround the entire building, and then, when you know what to look for, you see copper and bronze everywhere. The walkway connecting the terraces is about 465 lineal feet long and provides wonderful views of Ann Arbor and the nearby University of Michigan. On the building side, there is a 12-foot (4-m) high wall clad all the way around with 20-oz/square foot copper. Adding to the building's natural appearance, the architects secured cedar to the underlying granite and then attached the copper sheathing by means of crimping, copper clips and rivets.

And there's more copper nearby. A series of cylindrical aluminum columns, clad with bronze, mark each turn of the penthouse-level walkway. The columns support a copper-sheathed board-and-batten weather shield that extends all the way around the building.

The copper has not been pre-patinated (a chemical treatment that creates the familiar color of aged copper roofs) but instead will be allowed to progress through a natural sequence of red-to-brown-to-grayish green over the coming hears. The brass and bronze details, protected against the elements, will remain bright despite future onslaughts by Michigan winters.

Also in this Issue:

  • Copper-clad Condos Cap Ann Arbor’s Ashley Mews Building
  • The New Economy


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