Before its rebirth as a financial services company called Symmetry Partners, this 40,000-square-foot, windowless building in a Glastonbury, Connecticut, industrial park sat vacant for several years. It was originally a data center. “People called it ‘the bunker’,” says Michael Tyre, principal of Hartford -based Amenta Emma Architects, a firm charged with renovating the building into something surprising, edgy, and artful.

To get the biggest impact on a tight budget, Tyre determined that the main gesture would need to be added right at the curb. So the architects focused a chunk of their energy on selecting exterior cladding whose performance could equal its visual impact.

Tyre’s team covered the exterior walls with Amico’s Apex 01 quarter-inch expanded aluminum mesh. Not only do the panels create a distinctive grid pattern on the facade, but they also function as a brise soleil, mitigating glare and heat gain from a band of new windows punched into the south and west walls. The Amenta Emma team even detailed the screen to ensure its pattern conceals as much of the support framework as possible for a cleaner look. Although the material is humble, that step, so important to the integrity of the design, required considerable coordination between the vendor, fabricator, and architects. The screen also needed to hold up under the added weight of accumulated ice in winter.

To add drama at the entry, a canopy of Cor-Ten steel panels from MetalTech USA combines with the aluminum screens to create dynamic angles. The two elements were conceived as a single-folded surface moving across the building, yet each has its own unique material articulation relative to its function.