People can appreciate and put value to someone who stands out from the crowd. We have a number of popular sayings that reflect this. Phrases like, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” or “going against the grain” have entered our lexicon because standouts are acknowledged. Even the Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken” which is one of the most famous American works of literature is remembered and popularized for its closing lines “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” The most frequent interpretation of those lines puts value on the act of straying from the beaten path.
We highlight and acknowledge those that stand out among people, and similarly recognize the unique landmarks in architecture and design. Standard building designs give off a bulky and rectangular shape that would have trouble differentiating its purpose from other buildings. However, incorporating curved structural steel elements into the design of a building gives it a way to stand out.
Take for example, the recently constructed NASCAR Hall of Fame. When designing the complex, inspiration was taken from the nature of the vehicles revolving around the oval racetrack. The building features a central oval building which has an interior ramp of classic cars inside the Great Hall. On the exterior of the complex, a massive curved ribbon is the dominating feature. The ribbon uses curved panels of stainless steel for the exterior cladding. Not only does the curved stainless steel reflect light and accentuate the dynamic aspect of the building, but it also incorporates the NASCAR tradition of forming sheet metal for the bodies of its race cars. As well, thin incisions in the metal skin allow for animated lights to race around the ribbon, imitating the blur of race cars speeding past spectators at the track.
The ribbon itself is fabricated using 165 sub-panels and more than 5,000 stainless steel skin panels. The main entry has a free-span of 158 feet and weighs 157 tons, with a 4 foot diameter, 1.5” thick internal support pipe with W-shape cantilevers serving as its backbone. The structure, located in Charlotte, North Carolina, was a 2013 National Award winner of the annual AISC award for Innovative Design in Engineering and Architecture with Structural Steel.