Lecture: "Defining Surface: Fabrications Produced by the A. Zahner Company"
L. William Zahner is the President and CEO of A. Zahner Company, a 115 year-old engineering and fabrication facility in Kansas City, Missouri. Mr. Zahner has contributed to a number of high-profile projects in metal, including the Wyly Theatre in Dallas, the de Young Museum in San Francisco, the Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago, and the Cooper Union New Academic Building in New York City.
In 2010, L. William Zahner became a member of the Columbia Building Intelligence Think Tank. In 2007, Zahner was conducted into the Honorary AIA and in the same year he received the Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the Bloch School of Business. “He has taken what we still think of as a craft and elevated it into an art form,” the AIA jury commented. Thom Mayne, FAIA, calls him an “absolute leader in innovation, consistently pushing the tectonic limits of architecture. His total commitment to exploration and innovation makes him an integral part of our design team.”
In 2006, he was awarded the Copper Metal Award from Associazione Italiana Di Metallurgia in Milan, Italy. He is considered one of the Top 25 News Makers of the Year by Engineering News Record, 2000. He has authored two books published by John Wiley and Sons: Architectural Metals: A Guide to Selection, Specification and Performance. Mr. Zahner received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Kansas. Zahner is a major contributor to the arts, and is Chairman of the Board for the Kansas City Art Institute, a 4-year college of Art and Design. Mr. Zahner is an artist in his own right, producing large-scale sculptures in copper and various metals during his free time.
Founded in 1897, A. Zahner Company is an internationally acclaimed engineering and fabrication company best known for the use of metal in the world of art and architecture. Headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, Zahner employs nearly 200 craftsmen and engineers in its offices and two plants. Through the manipulation of plate metal, Zahner is able to produce a specific articulation of “surface” in support of an architectural concept. The utilization of parametric modeling and translation of that parametric data to manufacturing machinery, all while working in collaborative design partnerships with architects, has set the engineers and fabricators at Zahner apart from other manufacturers. The company has worked with major architectural firms such as Herzog & de Meuron, Morphosis, REX, ARO, OMA, Snøhetta, Zaha Hadid, Studio Daniel Libeskind, Gehry Partners, and FOA.
“For more than a century, the A. Zahner Company has fabricated intricate metalwork for the built environment. We have participated in the evolution from the tactile content of the artisan making components ranging from one-of-a-kind cornice shapes to the highly engineered shapely forms of a Gehry Partners design. In this evolution, we have successfully married the ability of fine crafted detail with a digital definition of three-dimensional form. The challenge has been to interpret the information conveyed by the designer and instill a parametric relationship. The relationship involves not only the interface of the various parts, but also how the machines that cut, shape, and pierce these parts interpret the design. This refined definition can be translated into the final product to produce a “machined” appearance and to enhance design intent.”- L. William Zahner for the article, “Digitally Defined Manufacturing” featured in the book Manufacturing Material Effects: Rethinking Design and Making in Architecture.