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  • Students attending the Wesleyan Christian College Preparatory School can hopscotch their way to class over a concrete sidewalk of classic books, with all the titles and author names stenciled in the concrete.
  • The slabs for the concrete books (26 in all) are sandwiched between A and Z bookends made of concrete. After the forms were erected, No. 5 rebar was installed from one end to the other to stabilize the walkway.
  • Custom stencils and a sandblaster were used to etch the titles and author names onto each concrete book spine. Then dye was applied to fill in the letters.
  • In addition to the bookshelf sidewalk, the school’s courtyard also features a serpentine sidewalk with alternate fields of exposed aggregate and broom-finished integrally colored concrete.

Students attending the Wesleyan Christian College Preparatory School in Atlanta, Ga., can hopscotch their way to class over a fanciful shelf full of classic books, with all the titles inscribed in book spines made of concrete. The decorative bookshelf sidewalk, holding 26 titles in all, is sandwiched between giant A and Z concrete bookends. This interactive book browsing experience, located in a quaint courtyard garden, was installed by Leroy Brown of Concrete By Design, who was hired to help design and install the decorative concrete portion of the project.

“The school wanted to provide a secure play area and walk-through area for the younger students. In addition to the neat visual designs, students will learn to read the titles of some of their favorite books to further their education,” says Brown, whose decorative concrete specialties include metallic epoxy coatings, concrete staining, concrete polishing, overlays, and stamped concrete.

The project involved creating a two-part decorative sidewalk extending between two buildings at the top of a steep 60-foot hill. Part one was a serpentine sidewalk that alternated between exposed aggregate and broom-finished integral colored concrete. Part two was the decorative bookshelf and A and Z bookends.

To create the bookshelf, Brown’s crew erected form boards for the bookends and each of the 26 books in the sidewalk, which measured different lengths and widths. Next, they placed No. 5 rebar from one end to the other to stabilize the entire shelf. Once the forms were in place, each book was poured separately using integrally colored concrete.

To imprint the titles onto the books, Brown used custom-made adhesive stencils in various fonts to replicate the different book titles and author names. After the stencils were placed on the book spines, he went over them with a sandblaster to etch the letters into the concrete. “Heavy winds and very cold temperatures made the placement of the stencils difficult, due to movement and lack of adhesion. The stencils had to stay at a certain temperature to ensure they were malleable,” he says. Once the sandblasting was complete, Brown used an exterior-grade concrete dye to color in the book titles and authors. Finally, the sidewalk was protected with an acrylic sealer.

The roots for Concrete by Design began in 2003, when Brown moved to Atlanta after earning a degree in Culinary Arts from the Culinary Institute of America. He decided that his passion lie elsewhere and found that applying his creativity to concrete was something that sparked his interest. He threw himself into studying the art of decorative concrete and attended multiple classes and workshops conducted by Bob Harris of the Decorative Concrete Institute. He now specializes in all areas of decorative concrete, but enjoys the more creative projects, such as this one. “I find that the higher the level of intricacy and difficulty lead to greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction for the client. I enjoy the fact that you can really do just about anything with concrete,” he says.

Materials used Integral color: Chromix, from Scofield
Concrete dye: Decorative Concrete Institute
Concrete stencils: Signarama, Fayetteville, Ga.
Concrete sealer: SurfKoat, from Surface Koatings Inc.

Concrete contractor Leroy Brown
Concrete By Design, Atlanta, Ga.

Landscape design and construction HGOR Planners and Landscape Architects, Atlanta (www.hgor.com)
New South Construction, Atlanta (www.newsouthconstruction.com)