Contemporary Art with the existing Regnier Conference Center. To shade the atrium space, a screen of perforated and corrugated aluminum was used to cover the ceiling and upper walls.
Phases of early human development are categorized by the materials used to make weapons and tools: the Stone Age, the Copper Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age. Gold, silver, and copper are easily obtained in their natural state. Gold nuggets, for instance, are found in sand and gravel of river beds. These metals have been put to ornamental and utilitarian use since the Stone Age 6,500 years ago. The Stone Age transformed into the first of the metal ages when humans learned that copper could be made into tools, such as axe heads used in the Balkans in 4000 b.c.e. Eventually, copper was melted and cast into molds and later separated from the chunks of rock that encased the metal using heat, which led to a primitive form of smelting, the refining process that separates copper (or other metals) from surrounding ores or minerals. The Copper Age became the Bronze Age when it was discovered that copper mixed with arsenic (and later tin) was superior to cast and wrought copper. True bronze, an arsenic-free copper/tin alloy, was manufactured in the Tigris-Euphrates Delta around 3000 b.c.e. The Bronze Age developments occurred simultaneously in various parts of the world and were also spread throughout the world via trade and migration of people from the Midde East. As the exposed copper ore deposits were depleted, the ores underneath the surface were mined and smelted. A by-product of copper smelting was the realization that iron, then used as a flux, was a better material to make tools and weapons than bronze. Thus, the Bronze Age gradually gave way to the Iron Age (1200-1000 b.c.e.). Iron at that time was worked by repeated heating and hot hammering, which separated usable iron from slag (waste material) in a process called blooming. The resulting wrought iron, along with other metals, was used for weapons, tools, agricultural implements, coins, and ornaments. The functional use of metal in construction may have first occurred in 100 b.c.e., when the Romans used sheets of lead to form pipes for water systems.
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Precious metals such as gold, silver, and copper represented wealth and status and have long been used as ornamentation in decorating and on furnishings. Metals such as copper were applied to doors by the Egyptians who also applied gold and silver to furniture. Islamic cultures made furniture and objects for the interior out of metal. The Baroque period saw metal used as ornamentation and embellishment on furniture and interior surfaces—for example, ormolu gilding was done on Louis XIV furniture.
From the sixth century until the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century, the developments in metallurgy mostly centered on iron: mining improvements, the blast furnace that increased the production capacity for iron (invented by Abraham Darby, 1709), smelting processes, and improvements in fuels. Great Britain was the greatest iron producer in the world. In 1740, the British developed the crucible process in 1740, producing low-carbon, ductile steel products by placing bar iron and added materials in clay crucibles heated by coke (from coal) fires. The British also developed the puddling process that converted high-carbon pig iron from blast furnace into balls that could be shaped or wrought.
The Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century occurred partly because of the technological developments related to iron.