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California Gate and California Bench

high wire bike exhibitThe sculpted granite California Gate provides a sneak peek of what's waiting for you inside the Science Center. The images cut into the gate are representative of the major thematic areas inside the Science Center, including World of Life, Creative World, Ecosystems, and Air and Space. Look closely, and you'll see that the two rocks that form the gate frame a space that looks like the state of California.

California Bench
The California Bench sits near the gate. The waterways of the state are carved into the surface of the California-shaped bench, so you can touch and trace water's path.
Sawing the Gate
Because the California Gate and Bench are made out of heavy granite and required very detailed carving work, some special processes were used to create the pieces. For example, when faced with carving the crinkled contours of California, workers couldn't use a regular straight-cutting wire saw. They used a special saw that could edge back and forth during the cut.
Stenciling an image

Carving images into the stone required a special process, too. First, artists covered the granite with a flat rubber mask. Then they copied the artwork onto the mask, and cut the image out of the mask to make a stencil. When the stencil was finished, artists pounded the mask flat to remove air bubbles before sandblasting the image onto the rock.

The sandblasting process, which works by carving away pieces of the stone with a super-high-speed spray of sand, gave texture and depth to the images in the rock. After sandblasting was completed, the images were painted to make them stand out. Artists used air sprayer to cover the stenciled image with a special stone paint, which gradually soaked into the granite.

Lifting the California Gate

Just as the creation of the California Gate and Bench called for special methods, placing them in the plaza required some creative engineering. Special pipe-and-sleeve fittings were designed to attach the California Gate to its spot on the plaza. Pipes were anchored three feet deep into the ground and stuck up six feet into the air. Holes for the pipes were drilled into the bottom of the California Gate.

When setting up the massive gate, the holes in the bottom of the gate had to be lined up precisely over the pipes before lowering the gate into place. The smallest mistake could have damaged the pipes or the artwork. To make sure the straps used to lower the gate wouldn't get trapped underneath it, the gate was lowered the last few inches by melting ice! The gate was placed on top of the ice so the straps holding the gate could be removed before the ice melted. Plus, the special glue that holds the gate to the pipes was timed to take effect after the ice had melted completely. Now that's cool!

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