Restoration of a Golden Legacy

Date: 23 Oct 2023

Nestled between Milwaukee and Chicago sits Wadsworth, Illinois.  Wadsworth is a small town in comparison with its bustling neighbours, but it boasts a unique attraction that draws visitors from all corners of the earth. Amongst a man-made lake, guarded by a 50-foot statue of the Pharoah Rameses the Second, lies the five-storey pyramid clad in gold tiles that gives the facility its name: The Gold Pyramid. The attraction that has been a mainstay of the landscape since the late 70’s nearly met ruin in 2018 but was restored and upgraded with the help of Gerard’s roof panels.

The Gold Pyramid was the vision of owner Jim Onan’s father, who commissioned the 17,000 square foot building in 1977.  Built around his interest in the concept of ‘pyramidal energy’, he even brought in specialists during the planning phase to align the pyramid with the North Star.  After the building was completed, Jim’s family moved in and made it home in 1982.  Although most would think living in a five-storey golden pyramid would be something extraordinary, Jim wasn’t fazed. “I didn’t really pay much attention to it; it was no big deal.  But every time I pull up, there are people stepping in front of the gate to see what [the pyramid] is.” Jim says of his unusual childhood home. Later the home was converted to an events facility drawing visitors from afar.

The spectacular exterior of the pyramid was made of stainless steel plates, electroplated in gold leaf.  However, in time it became apparent that the different layers of cladding were having a reaction causing leaching through the plates and leaking windows. The solution at the time was to apply a coloured coating which needed to be ground off for maintenance and recoating. Then in 2018 disaster struck.  During the maintenance phase of grinding off the coloured coating for recoating, heat built up and caused a fire within the wall underneath the cladding.  The pyramid’s ventilation system drew the fire up to the peak and caused immense damage.  The pyramid was forced to close down while the pyramid was rebuilt.

Jim knew he wanted to repair the pyramid with a tile system for the exterior and after finding Gerard online, he chose the CF Shingle profile for multiple reasons.  It was a cost effective, easy to install system and most importantly, had the appearance Jim was searching for.  “I looked at a lot of panels, and I thought this one would give it more of a rock-like look, like a pyramid would have”.  The profile includes Gerard’s Concealed Fastening (CF) technology, utilising an interlocking design to ensure fasteners aren’t exposed to the environment, prolonging the life of the fasteners and giving a seamless look to the finished project.  The CF Shingle profile also offered considerable wind resistance, which was important as Wadsworth lies close to Lake Michigan, near the ‘Windy City’ Chicago.  The system interlocks creating a single structural unit, giving it durability even with the harshest weather conditions.  This strength has been recognised by a county with one of the strictest wind resistance requirements in the USA, the Miami Dade County, and complies with the High Velocity Hurricane Zone of the Florida Building Code*. 

Gold Pyramid

The installation was a big undertaking, with intricacies within the build.  As it’s common for homeowners to roof their own properties in the United States, Jim was going to install the tiles himself.  Because the project was large and complex, Gerard’s Tony Tiapon, Technical Manager USA, arranged to come out to site to run Jim through training.  Although he had seen images of the project, he was blown away on arrival, “driving into the project was like traveling to Egypt. The whole property is designed to make you feel that. The building is a lot bigger in person than seeing it in pictures.” Tony reflects. The design itself appeared simple at first being a four-sided pyramid, however the detail created complications, Tony explains “the complexity lay in the flashings around each window and door opening in the roof planes.  Each opening needed to be flashed around three or four sides depending on the location”.

During the initial consultation with Gerard, Jim explained his issues with heating and cooling, particularly around the higher floors of the pyramid.  In the summer months, the fourth floor was completely un-usable due to the heat.  Tony suggested using a reflective insulated underlay which would help reflect heat away from the interior of the building during the hot months and keep heat inside during cooler months. The final system consisted of a plywood sheathing, layered with a water-resistant underlay, covered with Sol-R-Skin reflective insulation, and finished with Gerard’s CF Shingle steel tile.  Not only would this save Jim every year on utility costs, but it also provided added security knowing it is a Class A Fire Rated system, the most stringent standard available for building materials in the United States.

Gold Pyramid

After successfully training with Tony and having confirmed the system layout, Jim and his team were ready to begin installing the panels. The build went smoothly, and the team found the panels easier to apply than expected. “It was simple, like putting a big puzzle together.  It made it easy using a big air gun, the nails went in fast saving us hours.” Jim recalls. The panel design and material allow for easy application using a nail gun, utilising 25mm galvanised coil nails as a robust fastener on the ply substrate.

With the Gerard panels installed there was one last step to complete to finish off the project. Using a custom paint formulation in metallic gold, Jim put the final coat on the tiles to give it the gleaming gold exterior this nearly 50-year-old attraction is renowned for.  Jim reflects on the recladding project “I’m really happy with the final result.  We got the panels on in no time, thanks to the help from the team at Gerard”. 

*Miami-Dade County, Florida, NOA 22-0216.03 Expiration Date: 08/25/26

**Gerard is represented in the USA as Tilcor. All mentions of Gerard in this article relate to Tilcor USA.

Want to know more about our products?

Get in touch with one our knowledgeable team members.

Contact Us