The Outer Loop, 375 East and 375 West

Submitted by Vicki Scuri

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Client: TxDOT & City of El Paso

Location: El Paso, TX, United States

Completion date: 2014

Artwork budget: $3,000,000

Project Team

Artist

Vicki Scuri

Vick Scuri SiteWorks

Public Art Agent

Pat Dalbin

City of El Paso Museums and Cultural Affairs

Client

Tim Twomey

TxDOT

Client

Sal Nigro

TxDOT

Client

Jonathan Concha

TxDOT

Client

Jorge Ortega

TxDOT

Industry Resource

Michael Birkelbach

ECM International

Industry Resource

Javier Aviles

Sundt

Industry Resource

Alfonso Fernandez

JD Abrams

Artist

Alexandr Polzin

Overview

The Outer Loop traverses the Franklin Mountains linking East and West El Paso around the perimeter of the City. The new construction creates a central spine flanked on both sides by one-way frontage roads that lead into neighborhoods and businesses. The work is a sequential ribbon of faceted and undulating pattern motifs based on geometric mountain faceting and the local diamondback rattler. There are approximately nine interchanges along this route. The project features 2” relief that responds to light conditions and enhances the experience of travel and destination marking neighborhood entries. The project includes approximately 400,000 sq.ft. of MSE walls.

Goals

Artwork integration is key to this project. We joined the Team during construction. Our task was to seamlessly integrate our work with the contract documents. We worked closely with TxDOT and the contractors, Sundt and Abrams, to incorporate our work into the project, transforming the numerous large-scale MSE walls into a sequential pattern band, responsive to the site and to light.

To achieve our goal, we used CNC routing to carve the pattern relief for the formliners, producing very accurate defined relief surfaces that promote the reflection of light. We worked closely with Symons, then a formliner manufacturer in nearby New Braunsfels, TX, to produce the formliners for 375 E&W. Integrating the pattern design into the construction process through the use of custom formliners is one of our specialties. This method of construction produces maximal bang for buck. It is extremely cost effective for large-scale projects with repetitive elements. Including both segments, nearly 400,000 sq.ft. of precast panels were enhanced by our work.

Also, we worked closely with TxDOT to select the final color for the concrete stain, selecting hues that complement and blend with the colors and textures of the Franklin Mountains, promoting context sensitive design.

Process

Our goals for this project are to work with the selected contractors, to mitigate mass, complement views, promote placemaking, create context sensitive design and transform the massive infrastructure walls through the play of light and shadow. We worked very closely with TxDOT and the contractors (our design teams) to produce our work in a timely manner. We employed standard construction practices that could easily be integrated into the ongoing construction phases. Also, we provided ongoing reviews to keep the work on track.

Our goals for transforming the massive infrastructure succeed in many ways. Each wall has its own pattern motif, yet they all relate to an overall pattern theme that complements the viewer’s movement through the site. As the roadway runs through a mountain preserve, the adjacent trail is extensively used for recreation, biking, hiking, strolling, etc. The work reads at all scales, from very close to very far. Also, the work is extremely responsive to light conditions, especially acute sun angles, in the early morning or the early evening. Even under the moonlight of a full moon, the pattern definition reads and sparkles. For us, this type of perceptual responsive in the site, scores a complete success.

Additional Information

I am very grateful to TxDOT, City of El Paso, and the contractors, Sundt and Abrams, for allowing us to engage the project during construction. This is rarely done, and it takes willingness and a high degree of cooperation from all parties to succeed. Like every project, we faced bumps and obstacles, but we always overcame them and continued to press forward. My project manager from TxDOT, Tim Twomey, worked diligently to achieve consensus and cooperation, while maintaining a watchful eye on workmanship. In the end, the projects look quite handsome, raising the level of aesthetics for future projects.