When asked to capture the aura of an old mill, Chemetal provided the right solution for interior workstations inside the new New Balance headquarters in Boston, MA. The selection of Chemetal’s ALU designs was a perfect choice given that the shape, height, and many materials of the headquarters drew its design inspiration from the old New Balance mill building in Lawrence.
“The look is essentially aged metal like you’d see in an old factory — darker, slightly patinaed, and gray,” says Geoff Schaefer, president and creative director of Chemetal. “The ALU designs are a mood. The material is dipped in a darkening oxide and then hand brushed to create variations that are subtle and linear.”
To a certain extent, these designs mimic the look of cold rolled steel, but in a lighter material that’s less expensive and easier to fabricate. Just like New Balance sneakers, many Chemetal materials, including the ALU designs, are made in the USA, says Schaefer, whose company is based in Easthampton, MA, a former mill town about two hours west of Boston.
This year the company doubled its footprint, expanding into a now 70,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing and office space. “Even though Chemetal is in a newer space, we’re very familiar with old factory spaces,” Schaefer says. “We still own and use several in the area for our other businesses. We pull design ideas from them, looking at old industrial freight elevators, factory doors, and beat up metal supportive flooring. We recreate some of these looks in sheets of aluminum, brass and copper.”
The ALU designs from Chemetal are part of that creative. Of the three — ALU light, ALU Medium, and ALU Dark — the New Balance project used a custom ALU design based on ALU Medium. These custom Chemetal pieces, cut-to-size by Chemetal, were to be used as panels in workstations.
“We were really happy to be part of the New Balance project,” Schaefer says. “We took the whole company to a Red Sox game last year and on the way into Boston pointed out the New Balance building where all the ALU was installed. Everyone – sales, customer service, production guys who made the material – thought it was pretty cool. And they’re right.”