Rio Tinto head office

On behalf of Rio Tinto, the architecture and design agency Gensler has designed four decorative walls, each representing a metal element: iron, copper, titanium and aluminum. From inspirational images only, we have managed to build these colossi which now mark the landscape of the important international mining group headquarters in Quebec.


Rio Tinto

Architects / Designers

Gensler - New York


Decorative walls : Iron, Copper, Aluminium & Titatium


Iron wall: 2″ MDF cut 3D and lacquered, cold rolled surface steel sheets plasma cut & semi-mat varnish

Copper wall: light steel tubes & copper colored faux-fini lacquer

Aluminum wall: aluminum laths brushed and bent & semi-mat varnish

Titanium wall: stainless steel mirror triangles & titanium faux-finish varnish 

At the time we got involved, the concept of Gensler had obtained the approval of the client without anyone suspecting that the specified materials would blown the budget. For instance, let’s mention the choice of titanium, an excessively expensive metal. It was therefore necessary to find alternatives to replace certain materials while retaining the desired aesthetic and effect.

The documentation provided was limited to images of inspiration, with no details on how to build, assemble nor install the walls. For example, the Titanium concept contained 1,300 triangles with different elevations for a 3D effect, but the agency files did not specify measurements and distances.

The feasibility of several elements was technically problematic, such as holding metal triangles point to point without a contour or bending copper pipes that are more than two inches.

Visual Home has taken charge of the technical realization from A to Z by proposing creative solutions ensuring the solidity of the walls while reducing their cost. Here are some of the proposed solutions:

Titanium wall – Imagine a wall of 1,300 titanium triangles, this represents a real fortune, not to mention the weight! We therefore recommended to manufacture it in stainless mirror 16 gauge and to recreate the effect of titanium thanks to the talent of our artist-painter, for a result perfectly matching the drawings of the agency. As for the arrangement of the triangles, our team has carried out tests and samples to obtain a perfect layout at all levels.

Copper wall – As copper easily oxidize and its brittleness makes it difficult to bind, we suggested to replace it with light steel and apply copper paint to it. The illusion is perfect!

Iron wall – To make sure that everything hold together, our experts have reworked the cutting files in subtlety to preserve the concept as much as possible – rounder corners, more points, closer points, etc. – to arrive at a robust version which made unanimity.