Materials like aluminum, copper, and steel are more common, and beautiful, than many of us believe
Roughly 1.4 billion cups of coffee are brewed each day. And the coffeemaker or machine they’re brewed in is likely crafted from stainless steel, a glossy metal that contains a high quantity of chromium and is widely used for its corrosion-resistant qualities. Stainless steel is present in countless products and structures, from the screens on the Taipei 101 Tower in Taiwan to car exhaust pipes to MRI scanners at your nearest hospital. It’s even used in smaller applications, like S’well’s popular reusable water bottles, which are as environmentally friendly as they are aesthetically pleasing. Stainless steel is a metal that’s ever-present in modern society. It provides high style and function, but sadly, metal as a general material isn’t always revered for its groundbreaking and limitless building and design capabilities.
Metal’s Bad Reputation
Metal suffered a serious blow to its reputation in 2017, when Kobe Steel – a major manufacturer and metal provider for cars, airplanes, and bullet trains – admitted that it’d falsified data about the quality of aluminum and copper it sold to clients. This led many of its customers to question if substandard materials had caused safety hazards in its products, causing reputational damage that would reverberate far beyond Kobe Steel.
But also, many inaccurate beliefs about metal have prevailed for ages. For example, aluminum siding is often viewed as thin, cheap, and even unsafe in areas prone to severe weather –
despite its wide use. Aluminum wiring is sometimes linked to fires in buildings and residential homes. Some even believe that metal buildings aren’t safe and that they’re less durable and effective than those made of wood or concrete.
Generally speaking, public consensus is that metal is a cold, boring material that pales in comparison to other, bolder options. But this is a huge misconception.
Visible & Invisible: Metal Is Everywhere
If you take a look around your home, you’re likely to find several types of metal present in everything, from the pan you used to make your breakfast to the finishes on your light fixtures. Metal’s versatility and capability are unparalleled. Despite its undeserved bad reputation, it’s omnipresent.
- Aluminum: This metal is ideal because it doesn’t rust and thus serves a host of outdoor purposes. It’s used in functional ways – the powerlines that pump electricity to your home and the outdoor furniture on your back porch – and for aesthetic pleasures, like the sleek silhouette and smooth feel of iPads and smartphones.
- Brass: With its yellowish tint and industrial look, brass provides an elevated flair. It’s a low maintenance metal that’s used in home flourishes, like locks and doorknobs, and musical instruments.
- Copper: Similarly elevated, copper is a reddish-brown metal that’s used in a lot of cookware and electrical equipment, like motors and wiring, for its high heat conductivity. But it can also boost the aesthetic of a home when it’s used for light fixtures, sink faucets, and showerheads.
- Stainless steel: As mentioned before, stainless steel offers the best of both worlds. It provides style and function in everything from home appliances (e.g. refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, etc.) to jewelry and 3D printers.
- Steel: This metal, especially the cold-formed variety, is used in some of the world’s most iconic buildings, like Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the tallest manmade structure on Earth.
- Wrought iron: Providing a more rustic look, wrought iron is remarkable for its malleability. It can be used for a wide variety of purposes, from nuts and bolts to railings, fireplaces, lighting, bed frames and hanging racks for pots and coats.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other ways to use the aforementioned metals as well as other metals that can be used in new creations. Metal is unique in that it’s embedded in our everyday lives. It’s in essential items that keep us moving and functioning, and it’s in products that were designed simply for our enjoyment and personal delight. When its vast array of uses is taken into account, metal isn’t a material to look down upon or underestimate. It should be embraced, which is easy to do – it’s already everywhere you look.