I enjoy building animal habitats. Learning about the different animals and their behaviors fascinates me. I have learned a lot about animals just by building their environments and have gotten closer to them than I ever would have been able to. I became a presentation diver at the Long Beach Aquarium of the pacific after building all of the rockwork in the exhibits, this allowed me to feed sharks and talk to a younger generation of their importance all while at 30’! I participated in an Elephant teeth examination while in South America and looked straight down an elephant’s throat! While building a Grizzly bear habitat in the Midwest I stood 6’ away from a 500lb grizzly bear and learned that they can move a yard of Earth in under five minutes! That’s useful information when building their habitat and also a cool fact.
These photos are from companies I have worked for in the past and, on occasion, I continue to work for some of them. These are not my projects; I was simply hired on to help with the execution of the work. I will talk a little bit about each one and try to give a little insight into the undertaking of constructing these themed elements. It is important to note that telling the story thru props, themeing, color and texture is critical to the success of each one of these artistic endeavors.
These projects go through an evolving design that blends creativity and innovative technological advancements, this process can take years and can be astronomically expensive. Changes are made; plans redrawn engineering changed all to get the story just right. Once design, engineering and all of the architectural facades are decided on then construction begins. Creating an immersive environment with high impact and emotional content requires artisans to use traditional materials and tools in nontraditional ways. Broadcasting, stippling, carving and brushing at the window of opportunity is often the rule of the day. Molding and casting is sometimes required. References are critical and anything is used to get the desired effect. One of my favorite challenges is “How do we get that”
I have been witness to the marrying of the artistic trade to the traditional construction process and at times it has been difficult for one side to see the other side’s point of view. Imagine trying to explain to a flatwork contractor that we purposely want to carve big cracks in his just poured and troweled smooth floor to simulate the impact of a meteorite, or to broadcast different size rocks and pebbles in it and then run tires across it to leave tracks to simulate a muddy rut. Try explaining to a block wall contractor that he needs to purposely construct his wall in a crooked fashion so that we can make it look as if it is the only wall that has been left standing after an archeological excavation of an ancient city a thousand years old. Now you can begin to understand the challenges faced by those in the business of simulation.
Budget constraints, time tables and sometimes terrible weather are no excuse; the work has to be completed! Forty hour weeks are typical, seventy or eighty hour weeks are not uncommon, seven day work weeks always happen toward the end! I am one of the people, among hundreds, sometimes thousands that make this happen. This is what goes on behind the fences and barriers and sometimes under the tarps. No badge, hard hat or work boots required here. Enjoy!