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History of Bronze & Brass Metalworking
Posted Wed, February 28, 2018

History of Brass and Bronze Metalworking title over man using coal and flame to heat metal

Here at Coco Architectural, bronze and brass are a part of our family’s legacy--we know the history because we have helped shape many of the significant metal crafting trends through the 20th and 21st Centuries. While the overall history of metal and how it has helped shape the rise and fall of civilizations throughout history is quite long, we want to share with you some of the history of our craft and how metalwork has inspired artisans and cultural trends through the ages. 

Metalworking in Antiquity

infographic timeline of the history of brass and bronze metalworking

Although many people associate metal’s origins with the Iron Age, historians and religious artifacts have shown that hammering and casting metals developed almost at the dawn of humanity. Metalwork often defined a civilization’s ability to win wars and increase their cultural significance through artistic and religious relics. From the gilded bronze statues and weapons of the Egyptians to the masterpiece that is Chimera of Arezzo, bronze and brass often played a notable role in ancient times and continues to define and inspire culture today.

Bronze remained a preferred alloy for relics and buildings through the Roman era. In fact, the doors of the Pantheon and Roman Forum occupy their original positions and can still be seen on tours today. After the Roman period, the use of bronze fell out of style with artisans for a few centuries. It was only after Charlemagne came into power that bronze and brass started to take on new lifeforms.

Charlemagne’s influence started with religious artifacts, including the casting of bronze church bells that endures as one of the dominant features of church architecture today. Almost every metal piece and artwork during his era included the use of metal, which caused the Christian church to become one of the primary patrons of bronze casting throughout history.

During the Middle Ages, Europe transitioned from using metalwork for decorative or religious purposes into making castings of functional objects like chandeliers, candle holders, water basins and the like. Notably, chandeliers continued to be used exclusively in churches until the Gothic era. During this time, people began to consider that lighting their homes from a central source was more functional than having dozens of candlesticks around the room. Of course, the most extravagant and expensive figures distinguished the upper classes from the more straightforward metalwork of the lower classes.

The use of bronze and brass in religious castings allowed metal to prevail in popularity through the enlightenment, with the use of the metal in churches, homes and art throughout Western Europe and the Americas. Industrialization brought a decline in the use of bronze, as the era did to many works that required craftmanship over machines. It was utilized by a few individual artists, as seen in many of the Italian sculptures found in art museums today.

Modernization and the Future

As many of the bronze and brass artisans moved to America, they brought about a renaissance of the metals through the Art Nouveau era. In fact, our founder, Rosario Coco, implemented brass in everything from church railings to high-end tea carts. As the use of brass in elegant fixtures became more popular in society, Coco Brothers Inc. introduced the first shower door in polished brass. Upscale hotels and residences used our brass metalwork throughout New York and the United States.

laser cutting metal

As technology continued to improve through the last century, so did our ability to leverage that technology to create more ornate and customized metalwork. Craftsmen like us need a balance of technology and craft to maintain business. Despite manufacturing of high-end goods moving overseas, craftsmen have supported their business through the new capabilities that technology ushered.

The use of laser cutting allows us to cut new materials and be more flexible with changes throughout the manufacturing process. For instance, if your ventilation grille needs to be ½-inch longer on one side for one room, technology allows that change to be made quickly and efficiently. Older methods like casting would have meant that you needed to find a way to fill in the gap or create an entirely new casting.

James Coco Jr., Coco Architectural’s president, said, “Technology has caused higher-skilled craftsmen to go away. There is more highly sophisticated, automated equipment that has taken their place. We are trying to hold the balance and use both.”

The Beacon

One example of using both technology and craftsmanship is the Beacon renovation of the Jersey City Medical Center. This historic building was constructed in the Art Deco style as part of the Works Progress Administration program. After falling into disrepair and having many of the brass fixtures stolen and sold for scrap, we were approached to try to recreate some of those pieces that had since lost their castings.

The Beacon at Jersey City

James went to the site, traced the remaining pieces on paper, and then went back to our shop to design the new fixtures in both brass and steel. The project needed the flexibility of not only variances in pieces, but also the types of metal used so that the renovation could stay in budget. The use of our latest technology allowed us to continue our legacy of focusing on quality work with excellent customer service.

 

If you need custom fixtures for your home or building, we have the expertise to make sure the design fits the historical style. Contact us today to see how we can craft custom metal work for you. 


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Historic Home in Greenwich Village - Haunts and Preservation
Posted Tue, October 10, 2017

Historic Home in Greenwich Village – Haunts and Preservation text overlaying close up of No. 14 W 10th Street

New York contains an assortment of historic buildings alongside sleek, modern structures. With the influx of new buildings, it is important to maintain the architectural integrity of older structures. From replacing interior metal grilles with new identical pieces to updating the exterior structure while maintaining the historic design, preserving historic homes is vital to protecting our state’s history.

New York is a large tourist hub but often, residents experience its charm and never leave. This was the case for many residents of No. 14 West 10th Street. This Greenwich Village property has been a regular stop on ghost tours for years, with tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of some of the famous specters inside. 

Classic Brick and Brownstone

Completed in 1855, this residence, with its brick and brownstone exterior, still looks very similar to its original design. According to the designation report for the Greenwich Village Historical District, written in 1969, No. 14 is “a very handsome Italianate house, of brick with elaborate brownstone window frames and quoins at the left side. It has, however, been altered to provide a small basement entrance between the two great parlor story windows.” In the 1960s, the residence also featured elaborate iron handrails and areaways that were modern for the time.

14 West 10th Street Greenwich Village

Photo provided by: By Beyond My Ken [GFDL or Creative Commons, via Wikimedia Commons]

Ghosts of No. 14 West 10th Street

This elegant property has been the host of 22 deaths and, according to many visitors, some spirits remain. Although 22 deaths over more than 160 years is not too dreadful, the property has been termed by many as “The House of Death.”

Mark Twain aka Samuel Clemens (1835-1910)

The most famous resident of No. 14 West 10th Street was Mark Twain, less commonly known as Samuel Clemens. Twain resided in this home for one year between 1900-1901. Although Twain died in Connecticut, his ghost has reportedly been seen throughout New York City. One guest of No. 14 claimed to have seen his ghost who said, “My name is Clemens, and I has a problem here I gotta settle.”

Jane Bryant Bartell recounts many hauntings from No. 14 in her memoir, Spindrift: Spray from a Psychic Sea, published in 1974. Jane and her husband, Fred, lived in a top-level apartment of No. 14. The supernatural occurrences began as harmless abnormalities–odd sounds and smells–but escalated with time. She reported her dog continually growling at a chair as if something dangerous was sitting on it, sounds of crashing glass, unavoidable odors, and a phantom man. Eventually, the couple hired a medium who discovered the spirits of an aborted baby and her mother, nineteen year-old Reenie Mallison, who claimed to have been born in 1848.

Preservation of Historic Properties in Greenwich Village

With time, buildings age and require restorative updates. It is important to preserve the historic charm of buildings like No. 14 West 10th Street. This structure has been a home to many since its origin, including its spectral residents.

The building has undergone several renovations throughout the years that have complied with preservation laws of their time. In 1937, it was converted from a large family home into 10 separate apartments. Even in 2017, No. 14 is undergoing an exterior facelift.

14 West 10th Street Greenwich Village Under Construction in 2017

[Photo, taken October 2, 2017, provided by Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation]

When remodeling a historic building, there are laws that must be followed. Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation says, “Much of Greenwich Village lies within various designated historic districts or is individually landmarked, which means that the building is regulated by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, a government agency. The regulation generally only applies to the outside of the building; however, with the inside only regulated in so far as ensuring that any changes do not impact the exterior look. Therefore, even for landmarked properties, people are free to make whatever changes they wish to the exterior. That said, we strongly encourage people to recognize the irreplaceable value of historic interior architectural detail, and to preserve and re-use it whenever practicable. We have seen some amazingly inventive renovations where early 19th century detail is retained but with very modern and contemporary update. And, of course, in some cases these two-hundred-year-old houses are quite well-preserved inside and out.”     

It's all in the details. The metalwork featured in historic homes provides a level of character that is unique to each property. Preserving the design is vital in keeping a home’s historic charm alive. Our expert CNC Waterjet and Laser Cutting Services allow for an unlimited array of possibilities for custom metalwork to match and replace your historic home’s existing designs.

Our product catalog showcases many of our designs to help you get started. Contact our office to discuss your custom metalwork and how we can help maintain your home’s historic character.


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How To Safely Remove & Clean Air Vent Covers
Posted Thu, August 17, 2017

how to safely remove air vent covers

Coco Architectural Grilles & Metalcraft has been creating and designing custom fabricated metal products since 1909. While our products are built to last for generations to come, when purchasing a custom grille design, it is important to understand the proper methods for upkeep and maintenance.

Whether your home or office contains linear bar grilles or decorative metal grilles, keeping them clean and intact is vital to their longevity.

Clean Grilles and Covers for Better Air Quality

The majority of households and offices do not regularly clean their air vent covers. It’s a commonly known fact that one should change their air filters several times throughout the year; but many don’t know that the grilles or covers should be cleaned once a month along with biannual removal and deep-cleaning. A properly maintained air vent cover makes a world of difference in air quality and HVAC efficiency.

How to remove and clean air vent covers

Once a month, grilles should be lightly cleaned. There are a variety of options for cleaning processes including vacuuming with a brush attachment or wiping with a soft microfiber cloth.

Twice a year, air vent covers should be removed and cleaned. When removing covers from the ceiling, make sure to protect your eyes from falling debris. Placing a drop cloth below the vent is also a good practice to allow for easy cleaning after removal. Covers can be washed in soft dish soap and warm water with a soft, microfiber cloth in order to remove all dirt and grime from the surface. Properly dry with a soft towel after washing. Larger vents may need to be cleaned in a bathtub.

When removing any air vent cover, the first step is to turn off the power to the HVAC system. Next, hold the cover in the middle and carefully remove all screws. Do not pull on it, as this could damage the surrounding drywall or flooring. If you cannot get a proper hold on the cover, carefully use a flathead screwdriver to pry it out. 

 

how to remove your air vent covers infographic

If you’re in the market for custom metal grilles for your home or office, we recommend taking a look at our product catalog. Our waterjet and laser technology allow our team to create one of a kind designs for your home or business. Contact us for any questions or requests for your custom grille needs.


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The Business of Fabricated Metal Solutions
Posted Thu, July 20, 2017

Fabricated Metal Solutions

No project is the same and each brings its own opportunities for creativity and problem solving. During this commercial project, we had a typical request for expedited prototypes and production of 2,000 linear feet of decorative fascia grilles as well as a custom formulated powder coated color match. However, a unique architectural design posed a challenge we have never faced before. Read more about the project and see how we came up with a solution that matched the architect's aesthetic vision.  

Custom Fabricated Metal Solutions Case Study

 

This project showed our commitment to detail, quality of work and flexibility with our projects. If you're needing custom fabricated metal solutions for your project, contact us today or download our catalog


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Custom Ornamental Bronze Grilles
Posted Fri, July 7, 2017

Custom Ornamental Grilles

Coco Architectural offers custom fabrications for ornamental grilles and other products. In a recent project located at 80 8th Ave, in New York City, we created several custom pieces for the client, including a custom ornamental bronze grille over the entrance, a bronze header and jamb assembly for the Newsstand, and a custom bronze radiator enclosure with bronze bar grilles in the lobby.

Here at Coco Architectural, we offer upscale custom metal fabrications for a variety of different industries. In the 80 8th Ave project, our craftsmen created a custom ornamental bronze grille to protect the windows over the entrance of the business (shown above). The unique decorative twist on the custom bronze bars added a grand entrance feel to the business. 

Newsstand

Coco installation

Our specialized CNC Waterjet services allow us to offer unlimited possibilities for any metal work on custom orders. Waterjet cutting is often used during fabrication of machine parts but can also be used for custom-perforated metal sheets and other architectural metalwork. In this project, we created custom waterjet lettering for the newsstand area and cut the brake formed bronze header and jamb assembly to complete the look.

Radiator

Finally, as all of our work is custom for each project, we provided a satin bronze radiator enclosure with custom linear bar grilles in the main lobby, rather than your basic cookie cutter HVAC products. The aesthetic impact on the space and functional performance of the grille is very important to us, so we leave no detail untouched to provide our clients with a flawless, functional piece.

If you’re interested in custom ornamental grilles for your project, we can help your ideas come to life. From choosing metals for your project to matching unique designs with our waterjet and laser technology, we can add unique details to your commercial business or home to make your space feel complete. Browse our product catalog to get started. We are more than happy to speak with you directly by calling us at 631.482.9949.


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Blackened Steel for Architectural Design
Posted Tue, June 20, 2017

Some say the beauty is in the details. Along with custom metal work for your projects, Coco Architectural Grilles & Metalcraft offers a variety of finish options like antiqued, brushed, mirrored and even blackened finishes to bring the project together for a complete look. 

What is a blackened finish

Black oxide or blackening is a conversion coating for various materials like stainless steel, copper and copper based alloys, zinc, powdered metals and silver solder. It is used to add mild corrosion resistance for appearance and to minimize light reflection. The process includes a series of chemical baths or heat until it reaches the desired color. 

How it works

The process of blackening is done in primarily two different ways. Cold blackening is a  process we use here at Coco Architectural.  We add a cold finish on mechanically polished metals and then submerged it in a blackening chemical. We also add a clear lacquer to the metal to add an extra layer of protection. Hot blackening is the process of using a machine that spreads a thin layer of black oxide onto a product’s surface and is heated to the desired black finish. 

Why blackened steel

Blackening not only protects the steel from rusting, but the look is undeniably chic. The blackened finish also gives projects an industrial, edgy look in commercial or high-end residential projects.You may have seen black accents on a fireplace or stairwell or blackened pieces that complement large commercial facilities to create unique architectural elements.

We can create customized fabrication options for unique installations. Our offerings are adaptable to all of your job requirements including new construction, remodeling, and historic renovations.

Like the Linear Bar Grilles and Perforated Grilles, our custom metal products are manufactured with the same standard of excellence and our commitment to total customer satisfaction. If you're thinking about adding blackened steel to your project, download our catalog and request a free quote.


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