Five months after Santa Monica fenced off the Civic Center’s chain reaction sculpture, a team of structural engineers next week will begin performing tests to make sure the 26-foot-tall iconic art work made of chain link is structurally sound.
Experts will inspect the internal armature for corrosion or other problems and lab tests will be conducted on fiberglass and concrete samples, as well as on the chain segments that clad the sculpture and their fasteners, City officials said.
Before the inspection and testing, conservators will “carefully document and catalog the segments of chains in the selected sample areas, then they will carefully cut out the area designated as the entry point for the internal inspection,” officials said.
The testing comes after a “highly skilled team of professionals” devised a plan to “gather adequate information while doing everything possible to preserve the integrity of this important work of art,” officials said.
Concerns that the monumental public sculpture of a nuclear mushroom cloud by Pulitzer-prize-winning cartoonist Paul Conrad could pose safety issues surfaced in June, when City building officer Ron Takiguchi saw children climbing the 20-year-old sculpture.
Takiguchi found that “many of the fasteners which attach the copper tubing chain to the fiberglass core are missing or not fully imbedded, and some exhibit severe corrosion,” the statement said.
Made of copper tubing over a fiberglass core, the sculpture’s internal frame is made of stainless steel and rests on a concrete base.
City officials them hired experts to research the fabrication of the work who interviewed a number of the people who originally worked on the sculpture and notified the artist’s family.
After the tests are completed the City will develop a plan for the future of the work, which was a gift to the City that was narrowly approved by City Council by a 4 to 3 in 1990 after two years of public process and debate.
The work, which was initially turned down by the Beverly Hills Fine Arts Commission, was funded by a private donation to the Santa Monica Arts Foundation.