Titanium was discovered in Cornwall, Great Britain in 1791, and it is named for the "Titans" described in Greek Mythology. In the 20th century the material became used in rocketry and aviation. Thanks in large part to architect Frank Gehry, the metal titanium has undergone a transformation into one of the most formidable architectural metal surfaces. The Guggenheim in Bilbao was the first use of titanium sheathing as an architecture material in 1997. Since then architectural titanium has been used on a number of buildings.
Titanium is almost always provided with the surface finish obtained at the mill. This surface can be a smooth, slightly glossy gray tone or it can be moderately coarse from glass-bead blasting or shot peening. The stiffness of the surface resists deep embossing but can receive many of the same patterns available on stainless steel.
Titanium needs to be viewed in the full spectrum of light. On close examination, the surface looks gray; but at a distance of a few meters, when viewed in the full spectrum, it has a very slight golden cast. On overcast days, the metal looks medium gray with a slight golden tone. On bright sunny days, the gold tone shimmers like nickel silver.