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  • A true engineering marvel, the 27-foot-tall bronze statue of Rex the lion is able to balance on just one leg because of an underground footing made of 5 tons of concrete. Bolts up to 5 feet long and 2 inches in diameter were embedded in the footing and secured to Rex’s paw.
  • More than 70 brass embeds depict a diversity of wildlife, including flamingos, meerkats, fish, turtles and other reptiles. Brass divider strips were also installed to separate the different pavement colors and textures.
  • Various integral colors were used along with different decorative aggregates to create the effect of a river flowing through the concrete surrounding Rex.

The largest animal attraction at the San Diego Zoo is not only uncaged, but also ready to pounce on visitors as they venture through the front entrance. Poised on just one paw on a newly designed 6,000-square-foot plaza at the zoo’s entryway, Rex the lion is a 10-ton, 27-foot-tall bronze statue created to commemorate the legendary feline that inspired the development of the zoo more than a century ago with his mighty roar. Encircling the statue is a new exposed-aggregate concrete pavement with a radiating sun where Rex’s paw lands. The pavement is adorned with a variety of different decorative aggregates as well more than 70 brass embeds depicting a diversity of wildlife, including flamingos, meerkats, fish, turtles and other reptiles.

“Working with the design team, we asked what the idea was behind what they wanted the concrete flatwork around the Rex’s Roar sculpture to look like,” says Rick Gardella, president of Concepts In Concrete, a company that specializes in exposed finishes using specialty aggregates. “The lead designer said he wanted to depict a river flowing through the center of the concrete surrounding Rex. I said let's do a sand finish and we can incorporate different aggregates to make it look like water.”

To achieve the intended effect, the project ended up using 10 types of decorative aggregate, including glass, shells and rock in three different sizes. All the materials were hand seeded into the concrete and then exposed. The concrete itself was integrally colored using a variety of custom pigments. Brass divider strips were installed to separate the different colors and textures. The final step was to seal the concrete with a topical sealant to protect it from stains and abrasion.

“The sunburst circle under Rex’s paw was the last pour just before the unveiling. We also built two radius concrete seat walls at the perimeter of the area for people to just relax and enjoy the artwork. The job turned out just fabulous,” says Gardella.

Concrete contractor:
Concepts In Concrete Construction, San Diego

See another project completed by this contractor: Exposed Aggregate Concrete Leads to an Ocean of Discovery

Learn more about hand seeding and other methods for adding decorative aggregate to concrete.

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