Custom Collaboration - Custom Coatings Play Prominent Role In Iconic Structures

Jeff_AlexanderBy Jeff Alexander, Valspar Corporation

Color in architecture is bigger than ever, and there’s a strong “why” behind that choice. Color carries emotion, and for businesses, choosing the right color can directly help sell products and services, and truly inspire visitors of a building.

Today, there are endless amounts of color options provided by coating manufacturers, and a large amount of research goes into the development of new coating colors. Color experts are able to provide insight on not only what colors are on the rise of popularity, but the reason behind that rise. Manufacturers are also collecting market research regarding color selection to help understand trends, promote conversations with customers and pave the way for new colors and even custom creations.

Custom Has Benefits

Going a step beyond the trendy color options, customized colors are also being developed to help architects bring a particular vision to life. A few benefits of this approach are having the ability to create a unique and lasting impression on the building’s exterior, and to portray or mimic specific materials that tend to be expensive. For example, weathered steel is a popular architectural material thanks to its iconic dappled appearance – yet it’s usually cost-prohibitive for most projects. Custom coatings can be color matched to different reference materials to help provide the same look and feel as if the actual materials were being used.

Here are few projects where the process of choosing a customized color coating is showcased.

A Monumental Design

As an iconic and important landmark for the nation, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture needed to convey a memorable and long-lasting impression. Not only is it a part of the well-known and respected Smithsonian Institution, it occupies the last available spot on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. In order to reflect the design of 19th-century ironwork by enslaved craftsmen in Charleston and New Orleans, 3,600 customized, bronze-colored, cast-aluminum panels were created for the exterior of the building. Each panel was hand painted in order to show depth and dimension, and these custom color shades – African Sunset, African Sunrise and African Rose – conveyed the look of real bronze, which was the ultimate goal for the design team

Three custom Valspar shades – African Sunset, African Sunrise and African Rose – and one standard shade of Black Valspar Fluropon® coating were used on the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. To read more on the project and the color development aspect, which took 18 months to complete, click here. Photos by Alan Karchmer.

A Building that Never Sleeps

Designing a new building on the Vegas Strip that stands out from the crowd is an ambitious undertaking – one that held true for the new T-Mobile Arena. As the largest arena ever built in Las Vegas, the design mission from the start was to bring the opposing aspects of the flashy Vegas Strip and the muted earth tones of the desert to a connected point in the exterior design aesthetic. To achieve this, Populous – the assigned architect – knew they would need top of the line products and very specific shades. They worked with Valspar to identify three custom base colors – Flaxen Gold, Titan Gold and Chestnut – and used those as starting points to create the project’s custom color portfolio, consisting of nine varying shades. The custom coatings were added to the exterior metal panels and positioned in a visually stimulating pattern, some viewers even referencing the coating as copper skin.

To meld the energy and excitement of the Las Vegas Strip with the rustic topography and geological aesthetic of the surrounding mountainous environment, the arena's design team gave the front of the T-Mobile Arena a strip-inspired look while wrapping the north and west faces of the huge building with bowed bands of custom-fabricated metal shingles, gilded with nine colors of Vaslpar’s Fluropon® Classic II coating. To read more about the project and its unique paint finishes, click here. Photos by J Rick Martin Photography.

Standing Out in the Crowd

New building projects in the dense city of Chicago have very limited space to make a mark, and the new Hilton Garden Inn had tough competition. With the desire to standout, the architects were inspired by the Chicago River system and hoped to create custom colors that would embody the image of sunlight reflecting off of the water. Five custom grey shades were developed – Midnight Blue, Stonewall, Sabre Gray, Sleigh Bells and Horizon – to serve as this abstract representation and were brought to life through a combined effort. GREC Architects used images of pixelated glints of sunshine, colorful mosaic tiles, and modern art throughout the inspiration and design process and worked with the coating manufacturer’s development team to create the perfect shades.

Inspired by the look of sunlight reflecting off water, a mosaic of gray-hued metal wall panels comprises the Chicago River-facing wall of the new Hilton Garden Inn in the North Loop. The grey hues were chosen because they mixed the designers modern inspirations with a classic color palette that will never go out of style. To read more about this project and its coatings, click here. Photos by Mark Ballogg.

Regardless of the process and end goal, color selection is a careful and sometimes tedious collaboration between the architect and the coating manufacturer.  Thankfully, in the end, the final project showcasing its one-of-a-kind exterior coating is always worth the hard work.

Jeff Alexander has been with Valspar for 19 years and currently serves as the Vice President of Sales for the company's Coil and Extrusion Businesses. He is also a past president of the National Coil Coating Association. To learn more about Valspar products, visit

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