Adventures in Steel & Bronze

Posted October 27th, 2011 by Alan Stein and filed in Conservatory Projects, Steel Structures
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More often than not, our conservatories are constructed of wood, cradling the glass with beautiful arching lines, soaring angles, and exquisite detailing. A client recently asked: Could Tanglewood Conservatories create the same magic with steel and bronze? The answer is a resounding “YES!”

Great conservatory architecture invites you to linger and enjoy its rich details, fanciful embellishments and sensuous curves, regardless of the construction material. And so, eventhough we typically work with wood, our versatile team of engineers and craftspeople dove right in, creating a plan for a one-of-a-kind steel, bronze, and glass observation deck for the property, as well as an accompanying roof-lantern-style cap for the elevator in the home (shown here during the installation).

Bronze Lantern

Looking at either structure from the outside, you will see nothing but rich bronze decorative work framing pristine glass. Our team engineered and created an exterior shell of beautiful bronze, providing strength, weather resistance, and an “old world” look. The metal is completely raw, yet flawless.

That perfection is mirrored on the inside as well, where the steel ribs of the observation deck add architectural intrigue and become part of the home’s decor. From our previous work in creating steel structures, we knew the project would require special care, as the joints must be both structural and decorative. The great glass houses of the nineteenth-century often had intricate patterns in the steel to add design interest and to lighten the structure. Could we include a design to be laser-cut into the steel ribs of the conservatory? —the client wanted to know. Absolutely!

Since the client has a background in mathematics, a historically significant mathematical sequence was selected for the design in the steel. The Fibonacci Sequence has been around for many centuries and enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in the past decade thanks in great part to the book (and movie) “The Da Vinci Code”. For the uninitiated, Fibonacci (also known as Leonardo Pisano Bigollo) was a 12th century Italian mathematician, considered by some “the most talented western mathematician of the Middle Ages”. He is credited with spreading the Hindu-Arabic numeral system in Europe, recognizing that arithmetic with Hindu-Arabic numerals is simpler and more efficient than with Roman numerals. (Thank you, Fibonacci!)


In the Fibonacci Sequence of numbers, each number is the sum of the previous two numbers, starting with 0 and 1. This sequence begins 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144… Our design team incorporated the first part of the sequence into each of the steel ribs in the core structure of the conservatory. Starting at the apex, you can see the following pattern of holes cut into the steel: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5. The resulting structure is a truly unique work of art, incorporating centuries-old design and 21st century technology.


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