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Playing Hide and Seek with Granite
By Scott Sowers
All photos © Amesse Photography
When guests and visitors approach the entrance of the Boston Children’s Hospital they are greeted by a “hide and seek” style wall made of Mesabi Black® granite. The stone provides a backdrop for the intricate design of animals and foliage, which the project’s architect and designer, Mikyoung Kim calls “Playful Nature in the City.”
Ian Downing, associate at Mikyoung Kim Design in Boston says: “The project works together as a complete experience, the combination of the birch trees etched into the hide and seek wall at the front entry provides a sense of arrival and the blue paving on the paths create a subtle but playful entry that is unique to Boston. The wall is designed to entice the patients, families and healthcare providers at the hospital to explore and discover different elements each time they enter the campus.”
The design team knew that the stone chosen for the 1200 square foot structure would have to provide needed contrast and act as a suitable canvas for the project’s engraved art. Mesabi Black granite was a natural choice. Mike Butler, regional sales manager at Coldspring, the Minnesota-based stone supplier and fabricator for the project, commented: “Mesabi Black is widely used throughout the country because it’s aesthetically appealing. The grain structure and stark grey-black color is something that appeals to many artists. Another advantage of using Mesabi is that it looks great in many different finishes, so you can get a contrast in color without using a different stone.” According to Downing: “The stone selection was an integral part of the design process, because we wanted to integrate natural, durable materials into the design.”
Getting the stone to come out the way the designer intended was an enjoyable challenge for Coldspring, who has worked with the designer on multiple projects. Butler says: “When Mikyoung’s office come to us with an idea or a concept, they often have Coldspring thinking outside of the box to achieve exactly what they are looking for. We tend to do a lot of samples and a lot of conference calls, which is great because it gives both of us the ability to collaborate and problem solve together.”
An intricate dot matrix stenciling and sandblasting process was used to get the graphics onto the face of the polished stone. The light portions of the image are recessed slightly by sandblasting and white paint is applied to the stone to give the images dimension.
The art files were provided to Coldspring in a vector format, which allowed them to be converted to a mask that was then applied to the stone and sandblasted. Kayla Strand, sales coordinator, notes that a great deal of coordination was required to ensure that the artwork looked exactly as the MYK office intended: “Once the artwork was perfected the rest was up to the craftsman in our facilities. With over 200 pieces of granite, and unique images on each piece, we had to layout and line up each adjacent piece to ensure that the full image flowed across the entire block.”
The sheer size of the wall also complicated the job. Strand says: “Since the wall was so long and the graphics at such a high resolution, the wall had to be broken up into sections. We had to make sure each section was scaled correctly and the steps to create the halftone pattern had to be identical on each section to make sure the final graphics matched.”
While other stones were discussed during the design process, the choice to use Mesabi Black was never in doubt. Long-term maintenance of the ANSI/NSC 373 certified stone is minimal and the art is expected to stand the test of time and delight visitors for many years to come.