LOS ANGELES– June 25, 2012 – On Sunday Morning, the ribbon was officially cut on artist Michael Heizer’s highly anticipated “Levitated Mass” exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Thousands of visitors turned out to catch a glimpse of the 340-ton stone sculpture after speeches by Michael Govan, the CEO of LACMA and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who urged the crowd to view the decomposed granite (D.G.) as a reminder to conserve, as Los Angeles is still in a desert.
Stabilizer Solutions, Inc. worked closely with the design team throughout the past year, to help solve unique engineering problems that the site posed. The overall goal was twofold, to support an estimated 1 million visitors within the first year using mostly natural materials, and to develop a groundcover for the 2.5 acre site derived from the same parent material as the 340-ton boulder, meeting the artist’s unique vision. With approval from the artist, Michael Heizer, the team quickly settled on Stabilized SoCal Gold D.G. with 15-lbs of Stabilizer per ton.
Stabilizer Solutions representative, Clayton Hubbs worked with the quarry to engineer the needed particle size on the SoCal Gold D.G. to support the expected 1 million visitors a year. Hubbs says, “many quarries simply throw a binder into the D.G. that is dug up from the ground, which can be very inconsistent. When my company created the first Stabilized D.G. over 30 years ago, we developed the science required to support this kind of traffic. The science is not only dependent on the binder’s strength, but the particle size of the D.G. We went to great lengths to blend the correct amount of natural D.G., fines, and crushed angular rock to increase the load bearing capacity of the Stabilized D.G.”
Beyond the difficulties that go along with 1 million visitors, the site requirements posed even greater challenges. As the concrete supports slope down below the boulder, the surrounding Stabilized D.G. is sloped (under 8%) to the bottom of the concrete supports. This percentage of slope is usually not a problem for Stabilized D.G., but given the fact that in the rare event of rain, most water would drain down the slope to drains positioned just near the concrete, extra precautions were taken. The company recommended the use of its newly developed, StaLok® Concentrate, a polymer topcoat specifically designed to work with Stabilized D.G. in unique areas such as this. The StaLok Concentrate provided a non slip surface on the slope that would solve the sites drainage issues, while closely matching the appearance of the surrounding Stabilized D.G.
After the plans were made to properly handle water on the site, drainage moved from a functional concern to an aesthetic concern. While critical to the operation of the site, the design team did not want the channel drains located at the base of the concrete supports to be visible. Stabilizer Solutions turned to its in-house laboratory to develop a material that would visually blend in with the surrounding Stabilized D.G. and support traffic, all while allowing water to percolate to the channel drains. After much experimentation with its different binder technologies, the company utilized a larger 3/8 inch D.G. with a new proprietary binder mixture, poured into place above the channel drains.
While attention to detail was so critical in the design and construction phases, the small details largely went undetected by the crowds at the opening on Sunday. “I guess you could say the materials did their job,” said Hubbs. “The Stabilized D.G., StaLok Concentrate and drain covering largely went unnoticed. The crowds marched wherever they pleased, sloped or unsloped, drain or no drain, without having to think twice about where to take a step. I expect with the amount of time put into the design and installation, that the crowds will being doing the same thing for years to come.”