Government buildings have a reputation for being dull and uninspiring. That’s not the case with the U.S. Land Port of Entry in Calais, Maine. Surrounded by rugged, breathtaking landscape, the border station is designed to resonate with its environment. The use of metal effectively pulls off a number of striking contradictions—the project is welcoming but secure; open, yet closed; flexible, but permanent. This balance caught the eyes of the judges and earned the project an honorable mention in the Walls category of the 2011 Metalmag Architectural Awards.
The building’s metal features begin with the exterior skin—40-foot by 120-foot rainscreen panels made with expanded aluminum mesh in two densities were stamped, folded, and anodized with a bright clear finish and anchored to 1/8-inch-thick anodized aluminum frames. The exterior wall utilizes heavy-gauge steel studs at 16 inches on center used to support the exterior stucco finish system. The primary building structure features brace-frame steel construction. Other metal features include structural steel canopies, interior millwork, and handrails.
“A striking quality is contained in the eerie juxtaposition of natural and manmade, the serenity of the Maine landscape against the clean, slick composition of the building complex; and the tension of the rock formations in the interior courtyard against their reflection and reinterpretation in the stamped expanded aluminum mesh,” says awards judge Raffi Tomassian, designer with DNK Architects in Cincinnati. “The repetitive random landscape of the mesh panels observed from a distance recalls an early digital age rendering. The resulting effect is almost like a picture of a building, rather than the building itself. It is a clever move subverting expectations and elevating the building to a sculpture in a lush natural environment.”