Vol. 54, Issue 2 • Indaten™, Industrial

Big build on the prairie

Weathering steel roots new build to its natural setting

Story: Julia Preston

Photography: Dan Banko

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At the southern edge of Alberta, the prairie fields stretch as far as the eye can see. Overhead, the sky spans seemingly forever, the vast blue broken only by the occasional wisp of cloud. A river bends and winds through the endless expanse of grass. Far in the distance, you see the sweet grass hills of Montana.

This picturesque spot is a timeless showcase of the province’s natural beauty. And for the family who has farmed this land for generations, it’s also the setting of their newly constructed modern home and expanded shop.

Appreciating the landscape and ensuring the buildings complement this magnificent scenery was a priority for the homeowners. They engaged Spencer Court, architect at One One Ten Architecture + Urbanism, who shared their vision to embrace the prairie setting.

The shop and adjacent home are the latest additions to this multi-generation family farm. At 35,000 square feet and 28 feet high, the shop is “a farmer’s dream come true” says Court. The building will house combines, tractors and other essential farm equipment.

“In that particular setting of the landscape you want buildings to feel like they’ve come out of that place or out of the ground.” explains Court. “There’s certain vantage points where the shop looks very pure and you don’t see the house, and then you come around… and finally the backdrop [to the house] is the shop from the south. All sides of the project have a different relationship [to the land].”

“In that particular setting of the landscape you want buildings to feel like they’ve come out of that place or out of the ground.”

— Spencer Court at One One Ten Architecture + Urbanism

To connect the shop to its setting, Court’s first choice was Indaten®, ArcelorMittal Dofasco’s cold rolled weathering steel. Over time, Indaten® will oxidize, taking on a raw and rusty patina that blends with the natural environment. Like the grains in the field grow from green to gold through the seasons, the steel will transform from grey to orange and finally to a warm rich brown.

This gradual evolution makes the building come alive and further connects it to its location. The transformation of Indaten® is specific to its environment. In order to oxidize, weathering steels must be exposed to alternating cycles of wet and dry weather. In the arid climate of Southern Alberta, oxidation will happen more slowly. The final dark brown patina will be varied, textured and unique, just like the environment of the farm.

“We gravitated to a weathering type of patina so it felt like it’s been there longer than it has… [and been] shaped by the climate and the conditions around it,” says Court.

Indaten® also helped Court to manage the scale of the large structure.

“As architects we’re thinking about human scale. How do we make this hulking mass… relate a bit more to the body?” he says. “Weathering steel seems to relate more to the human qualities of things or natural qualities.”

Indaten® gave an opportunity to introduce texture and shadow to the building. Rather than a single monolithic block, panels and layers create subtle visual interest through different stratified lines.

These lines echo the rippled hoodoos that preside over the high grassland prairies of this area. These towering columns of rock have eroded over thousands of years into magnificent natural sculptures.  

Writing On Stone Provincial Park, located near the farm, contains a spectacular concentration of hoodoos. The Park, which is also a Unesco World Heritage Site, holds the most significant collection of protected First Nations’ petroglyphs (rock carvings) and pictographs (rock paintings) on the Great Plains of North America.

This history, tradition and spirit of the land surrounds the farm and is part of what Court and the owners aimed to honour with their new construction.

At the shop, the base of the building is rooted to the earth with formed concrete veneer. Then, Indaten® was applied in three tiers that stretch 22 feet high. Panels of varying widths were arranged in an irregular pattern and at the very top, fibre cement brings the mass down slightly. The result is an exterior that feels rustic, natural and in harmony with the surrounding environment.

“From a distance all you see is weathering steel,” says Court. Up close, the vertical ribbed panels emerge. “Overall it looks kind of random and changing and provides a bit more shadow play. In our region the sun is what activates everything.”

Court worked with supplier Forma Steel on the weathering steel panels.

The company uses Indaten® as part of its Forma Plank line. Forma Planks are hidden fastener panels that are folded instead of roll formed. Dave Jackson, technical product specialist with Forma, explains that folding is gentler on the metal and also enables Forma to work from blank cut sheets if needed. The company can fold up to 16 gauge and up to 26 feet 10 inches, though the majority of trims and cladding they produce still fall at 10 feet.

Forma offers the planks in a variety of colours and textured finishes as well as Indaten® weathering steel—the only requirement is that the metal be a minimum of 24 gauge.

Spencer Court, Principal Architect, One One Ten

“The flexibility we have in folding it is that we can change dimensions,” Jackson explains. “We took a standard product which is our Forma Plank and worked with Spencer [Court]… to make modifications to the size of the panel to allow for this random spacing and sizing.”

Forma adjusted the widths of the panels slightly from Court’s original design to ensure they used the full coil with minimal waste.

For installation, Indaten® does not require any special preparation, though One One Ten always goes beyond the standard building paper wraps. On the shop they used a 3D drainage product to ensure adequate ventilation and moisture protection behind the panels. They also incorporated foam insulation to improve thermal performance beyond what is seen in most shop buildings. Both the drainage and back ventilation increase the lifespan of the cladding.

“Weathering steel seems to relate more to the human or natural qualities of things. It’s something that would evolve.”

Jackson emphasizes that along with substrate preparation, ensuring the surface is plumb, level and flush makes cladding installation easier. Forma also recommends stainless steel clips and fasteners when working with weathering steel. The risk of reaction as the steel oxidizes is low, but stainless ensures longevity. The mechanical fasteners also help to secure the panels against Alberta’s harsh winds.

“It could very much be a 50 year cladding especially out in that region where it’s semi arid and quite dry,” says Court.

This long view to the future is perfectly suited to this timeless area. Here the warm browns of Indaten® glow and feel at home in the Alberta sun, a complement to the golden waves of grass and endless fields. The family who farms this acreage has immense respect for the land and its history. Their thoughtful construction of this new shop represents the next chapter for the newest generation on the farm, for those yet to come, and for the land itself.

Project Specifications


One One Ten | Architecture + Urbanism // 010110.ca


Talbera // talbera.com


Brennon St. Amand (Destination Developments)


Destination Developments // destinationdevelopments.ca


Destination Developments and Mauro Contracting // 403-382-1382


Forma Steel // formasteel.ca


Forma Steel Forma Plank – Custom Variable Width 22ga Weathering Steel with Stainless Steel Clips and Fasteners