It took a unique blend of contemporary computer modelling with centuries-old artisanship to restore this hundred-year-old copper turret on an iconic Auckland home.

It’s not the type of job brief we get every day. But then again, few are. This job called for the refurbishment of a copper dome above this turret atop this historic Auckland home.

Original TurretAll too often this type of refurbishment involves replacing the original craftsmanship of yester-year with some modern off-the-shelf solution which has neither the beauty nor authenticity of the original work. But thankfully this owner was a little more of a purist, and was seeking something more in keeping with the original.

We started by systematically measuring every curve and angle over the entire structure, and rendered a 3D model in our computer systems. With precise measurements in hand we designed a system of uniquely shaped and contoured copper tiles to clad the entire dome, and to top it off, we modelled exact replicas of the capping and spire.

New and Old PiecesArmed with the exact proportions we were able to determine the extent and cost of the installation well before the first piece of copper was cut.

Having satisfied ourselves and our client on the requirements of the dome, we set about fabricating the tiles. Since the curve of the dome and the size of the arc constantly changed as we clad higher up the dome, it was imperative that each piece fitted snugly, and created a watertight finish that would last another hundred years. So each of the hundreds of leaf-shaped tiles was machined to its own spec using sophisticated computer-controlled cutting and contouring equipment.

The complexity of the design of the capping and the spire made computer fabrication untenable, so this was a job for an old-school artisan. The two pieces were painstakingly shaped by hand on a lathe, to create a smooth and seamless mirror to the original pieces. Despite the fact this structure would be well away from prying eyes, it was designed to withstand the scrutiny of a nosy neighbor if it were mounted on the kitchen table.

Once all the components had passed through quality control, the whole process moved on site, where the old tiles were lifted and the structure beneath weatherproofed and prepared for the installation.

To say installation was like building a jigsaw is to over-simplify it. In keeping with the original look and feel, each tile was individually screwed into place using little more than a traced out template to guide the installer.

Starting at the bottom, our craftsmen affixed the tiles in the  predetermined pattern, with each layer overlapping the fixing points of the previous layer, creating a textured fish-scale effect which is robust, waterproof and sparkling in the Auckland sunshine

Having tiled our way to the top, the “crowning moment” was the placement of the capping and spire, which locked the entire job into place.

Excluding the modelling and the preparation, our workers were on site for less than a week, meaning minimal risk or nuisance for our client. And restored to it’s former glory, this turret and the house now look worthy of it’s ‘Aucklandish’ price tag.

For well over 15 years Metal Design Solutions Ltd has pioneered advances in the architectural metal industry installing Zinc, Copper, Stainless and Aluminium Roofing and Wall Cladding. Metal Design Solutions’ work is now found in and around structures across New Zealand. Check us out at www.metaldesignsolutions.co.nz