In an interview with KC Studio’s Julius Karash, L. William Zahner said, “I’ve worked with the engineering world and worked with the architectural world, but art is the outward thinking that stretches the limitations. It makes the world a little more interesting place to be.” Bill Zahner’s metal fabrications for art and architecture have certainly made the world a little more interesting. Zahner is participating in the Architecture + Industry in the Future → of Cities session of “Foundations and Futures,” chaired by Kevin Klinger.
Since 1989, Zahner has been the president and CEO of A. Zahner Company, an engineering and fabrication company specializing in creating art and architectural systems. The A. Zahner Company is based in Kansas City, Missouri, and has facilities in Dallas, Texas. Andrew Zahner, Bill’s great grandfather, founded the A. Zahner Company to provide custom metal cornices around Kansas and Missouri.
Bill Zahner is responsible for transforming the regional contractor into an internationally known fabricator of custom metal facades, structures and art pieces. A. Zahner Company has worked with the architects Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, and Stephen Holl. Those billowing metal curves that make Gehry designs so distinctive, like the Experience Music Project in Seattle, are made possible by Zahner’s patented metal systems. Recently, A. Zahner Company helped design and fabricate the striped steel and glass envelope—the walls and roof—of the September 11 Museum in New York City. The company has also realized ambitious projects for artists such as Anthony Howe, Jan Hendrix, and Jonathan Olivares—one of the 2016-17 Miller Prize Finalists. Zahner worked with artist Dale Chihuly to create a bridge that carries pedestrians through downtown Tacoma while surrounding them with Chihuly’s colorful glass art.
The A. Zahner Company’s mission is to “surpass the expectations of our clients by expanding the boundaries of high-quality metal and glass used in art and architecture.” Pushing technology forward is a priority for the company, leading them to develop digital modeling and manufacturing techniques. Bill Zahner’s work with the company bridges the perceived gap between architecture, art and industry, making a profound visual impact on cities across the nation and beyond. Zahner has shared his expertise in two books about architectural metal. Architectural Metal Surfaces and Architectural Metals: A Guide to Selection Specification and Performance teach readers how metals can be used in architectural and artistic applications, using illustrations and historical uses to contextualize the materials. In 2007, the American Institute of Architects recognized Zahner’s accomplishments by inducting him as an honorary member.
The A. Zahner Company works to realize ever more ambitious artistic and architectural projects, which Zahner will share at the The Architecture + Industry in the Future → of Cities session of “Foundations and Futures.” Zahner explains, “A. Zahner Company has a mission to build on past traditions by pushing for future innovation, and I think that mission will resonate with Exhibit Columbus attendees.” From Zahner’s perspective, the future will be a very interesting place indeed.