Early in October 2007, the monumental steel sculpture Facets to the Sun was reinstalled on the plaza of the Federal Building in Manchester, New Hampshire by McKay Lodge Art Conservation Laboratory, Inc. after the company removed the concrete-bound sculpture in 2006, demolished its monolithic concrete and granite base, and restored the painted and polished metal sculpture during 2007.
In the fall of 2006, Robert Lodge flew to Manchester to examine the 1978 sculpture at the request of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). This was the first professional preservation attention the sculpture had received and the attention was occasioned by renovations to the building it graces. Facets to the Sun was commissioned in 1978 for the Federal Building through GSA’s Art in Architecture Program. The work reflects the artist’s impression of Manchester and the ambitions for the then new Norris Cotton Federal Building as an experiment in energy conservation measures. Located on the southwest plaza, the sculpture consists of 36 black painted steel cylinders embedded in concrete with polished steel faces variably oriented toward, and reflecting the southern sun.
The 100,000 dollar art conservation project is a major accomplishment in restoring a significant modern public-sited sculpture to a condition more sympathetic to the original 1978 conception after an initial misguided installation by the government, subsequent misguided restorations, and some maintenance problems with the original materials used. The lengthy work involved considerable research into the artist’s original conception, the intentions of GSA in its installation for the artist, and past restorations.
During the project, considerable time was spent in negotiations with the artist and staff of the Bourgeois Studio and with Bob Spring of Modern Art Foundry. The McKay Lodge company designed and constructed a new, more delicate ten foot square concrete, granite and stainless steel base for the sculpture that more closely matches the artist’s original intentions than the massive base that was initially provided for it by the government.
The design of the new base was reached after much experimentation and communications with the Bourgeois Studio staff and the artist. The new base incorporates a novel use of an elevated slab of pervious concrete for better surface drainage of rain and snow melt. This surface, made of white Portland cement with fine white marble aggregate, while providing a firm concrete top, allows gallons of water to pass through it to a drain inside the base at a rate of many gallons per minute. This pervious top prevents puddling of rainwater and snowmelt around the steel elements of the sculpture.
Coatings have been upgraded to epoxy primers and industrial urethanes for better protection of the steel than the original alkyd coatings. All coatings procedures were designed and executed by company president Robert Lodge who has industrial training in modern industrial coatings, coatings specifications and failure analyses. Additionally, the highly polished steel “facets” originally made of lacquered mild steel have been faced by McKay Lodge, Inc. with highly polished stainless steel that will no longer be subject to corrosion and requires no clear lacquer which would be subject to periodic failure.
McKay Lodge Art Conservation, Inc. is the sole source vendor to GSA for art conservation services through multi-year contracts providing conservation of the collection located at all federal properties in all regions of GSA throughout the United States including Alaska, Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The company is currently working within a five year IDIQ contract
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