Art Work

For Falon Land Studio, trial and error yields a fluid sculpture for a public park.

By Haniya Rae

In early 2020, the artist and landscape architect Falon Mihalic, ASLA, of Falon Land Studio was chosen to create Meander, a public art piece for Houston’s historic Market Square Park. The concrete and resin sculpture was to replace a beloved (but weathered) sculpture with something more modern and abstract, while also offering a place to sit for both adults and children and some additional light at night.

“Market Square Park is not a huge space, and it’s bound by things that I didn’t want to disturb,” says Mihalic, who is also the current chair of LAM’s Editorial Advisory Committee. “A previous iteration of Meander stretched into the paving, but they’re historic Freedmen’s Town pavers. So, we knocked out some planting beds to keep the historic elements intact.”

Meander was built in a two-part process involving separate molds and installations for the concrete and resin sections of the piece. The curvilinear concrete pieces were made by the Ark Concrete Specialties, Inc., in Houston, a fabrication team that builds wooden concrete molds by hand and pours a proprietary concrete mix. The team cast each concrete piece as an 800- to 1,200-pound module that fits into a larger portion of Meander’s curves, sort of like sections on a caterpillar. When the concrete team finished making their pieces, they placed and fit them together on site at Market Square Park, allowing Mihalic and her team to cast a positive of the resin mold.

The illuminated sculpture is designed to encourage climbing and play. Photo by Todd Manning, the CKP Group.

“We made a 3-D model and had construction drawings of Meander,” Mihalic says. “But the concrete shop makes all the molds by hand and not CNC [computer numerical control], so we knew we’d have to make a positive mold on site because that was the only way to be sure that the resin would fit.” The UV-stable resin is expensive, Mihalic explains, and the team couldn’t risk having the measurements wrong. Thousands of LED lights would need to be secured under the resin before setting it in place to illuminate the sculpture at night, so the team had to create exact dimensions from the concrete molds for the electricians.

Mihalic spent months testing out layers of resin and pigment to create a water-like effect before pouring into the mold itself. Each layer of the pour required industrial protective equipment and ventilation and took up to 10 days to cure.

Once the process was nailed down, she enlisted the help of a fabrication crew at Houston’s Polk Street Studios for the final cast. The crew built a wooden support to carry the resin to the concrete bases and screwed specially colored flange nuts and eyebolts on the underside of the cast to create a temporary handle to lift it into the modules. “It was a very satisfying moment when the resin actually fit,” Mihalic says. “We spent so much time figuring out all of those steps by hand.”

A fabrication team installs the elements in the park. Photo by Falon Mihalic, ASLA.

Haniya Rae is a freelance writer who lives in Brooklyn.

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