Founded in 1940, Rigidized Metals specializes in rolled metals with deep-set patterns. These highly textured surfaces are created with the help of three massive rolling machines, each of which weighs nearly 40 tons. According to the company, they know of only one other machine of that size and capability in North America, and it is put to use for industrial products, such as tread plates. Though metal is often regarded as a tough material, Rigidized sees steel, aluminum, copper, and brass as materials that can be manipulated as easily as textiles or leather. The rolling machines are like “giant pasta makers,” according to Chip Skop, a sales executive with the company.
As the company’s name implies, the rolled textures help stiffen the material with no added weight and prevent bowing, while also concealing scratches for added durability.
The company’s lengthy portfolio includes the continents on the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Corona Park and more recent work like the metal panels used in the recladding of the Jacob J. Javits Convention Center. Rigidized makes a variety of exterior and interior metal cladding systems and surfaces, but they see custom interior applications as a growing area for the company. “We’re used a lot in bars and restaurant, lobbies, and airports,” said Skop. They’re making their debut at ICFF this year. “A lot of the architects and designers we work with attend the show, so we think it will be a great fit for us,” continued Skop.
Fabrication has been a growing area of business for the firm, though they do not assemble the pieces they make. Rolled patterned sheets are customized through perforating, bending, and cutting processes, which are then used for bar fronts, reception desks, balustrades, and countless other interior applications.
While hardcore cladding materials and beautiful interior elements and surfaces might be more typical of their work, Rigidized recently sponsored a competition for graduate students at the University of Buffalo to create housing for a threatened population: honey bees. The resulting tower, Elevator B, uses a system of hexagonal panels to create a strikingly contemporary vertical hive in an empty lot dotted with wildflowers, set amid rusting silos. The 22-foot tower, now occupied by thousands of pollinators, is emblematic of the Rigidized’s engagement with the design community at all scales. This Buffalo-based company is demonstrating that the Rust Belt still knows how to manufacture the elements of leading-edge design.