A Sculpture for the City

2008 Branch 8-12-08 (20)
When a landscape architect for the city of Sault Ste Marie called about a sculpture/fountain that he might install in a tiny new city park, I did not tell him that I had nothing for him.  Who wants to talk to a client about what you cannot do for them? I am able to do things differently, as I have a very talented staff who are able to manage and fabricate all manner of custom work for clients. The fabrication studio shown above makes it possible to produce work in concrete, steel, wood and any combination thereof.  I told him we would be happy to design and quote a fountain for his project.

2008 Branch 8-12-08 (13)The upper peninsula of Michigan, and the Sault in particular, is home to a substantial population of American bald eagles.  They are proud of the fact that the eagle which symbolizes our entire nation thrives here, as well they should be.  The bald eagle is as much a local treasure, as it is a national one.  As any fountain placed on City property would be subject of discussion, design and review by committee, it seemed those firecely wild and independent birds would make a fitting subject for a sculpture, and appeal to a broad audience.  We chose a subject matter we knew would strike a chord with a number of people.  Given some drawings and dimensions of this object, a CAD drawing was produced enabling the project to be quoted.  Nothing with cities proceeds quickly, but it does proceed; we were cleared to build.

August 13 pictures 163This fourteen foot tall steel sculpture interpretive of a tree would cover a plumbing system designed to propel water out the topmost branch.  Attached to that tree would be a network of steel twigs representing an eagle aerie.  The galvanizing tank in which we hot dip galvanize all of our steel is only 5.5 feet wide; one branch of the tree would have to be mechanically installed after the contruction process was complete. The fountain was designed in the round for viewing, not designed to fit a tank. 

August 13 pictures 168

A five ton bridge crane allowed us to lay the sculpture down on a trailer, and transport it to the galvanizer. It was a days work for for the tank operator to carefully suspend and dip this piece, and its wide branch, without incident.  We stayed the entire length of the galvanizing process, so the piece would not have to be stored there; we trailored it home that night.  


The hot dip galvanizing process covered every surface with a layer of zinc; this zinc would protect the steel from rust.  The steel plate welded to the bottom of the sculpture would be bolted to a concrete foundation, ensuring that no wind or other  bad weather could topple it; that plate accounted for 300 of the 2000 pounds of steel used in all.


Acid washing the galvanized steel changed the finish dramatically.  What was silver is now a very dark streaky grey.  We hooked up a hose once the finish was completed, to check that the plumbing would work; this moment gave Buck more than a little anxiety.  If there were a problem with the plumbing, how could it be repaired? As he is a very thorough and thoughtful fabricator, the fountain passed its most important test. 

DSC_0016Life-size bald eagles hand sculpted  from a steel rod and mesh galvanized armature, and acid stained mortar, would be attached to the sculpture via steel sleeves made to match the size and angle of the legs.   

buckBuck followed  this semitruck on whose whose flatbed that sculpture was securely tied down-for 340 miles.  The next day, he supervised the installation, driving home late in the day. The sculpture had been installed.

The landscape architect, John Rowe, had designed a pool which captured the fountain water underground, and recirculated it. The design of the pool was much more about native Michigan rock, than water.  The clump of steel cattails provided sculptural interest closer to eye level. We kept the concrete sculptures high in the air; they can be seen from far away. The stone edge was wide enough to provide seating.  The materials used are gritty, as befits this urban neighborhood. It does indeed look like it belongs there.