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Gate Precast etches iconic scenes into Music City Witness Walls

Nashville’s civil rights struggle has been eloquently portrayed the past year in the “Witness Walls,” a set of fragmented concrete sculptures bearing imagery from the Nashville Public Library.

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Using panels from Gate Precast’s Ashland City, Tenn. plant, artist Walter Hood designed spatial experiences that place visitors in the center of civil rights-era moments occurring in the Music City. The precast producer utilized innovative graphic concrete technology to turn the artist’s vision into reality through both curved and flat rectangular panels. Its solution was two-pronged: incorporating the use of both photo-realistic form liners and stencils to recreate the library images. Production crews relied on a plastic form liner from Colorado-based Innovative Brick Systems for the curved panels.

“The manufacturer has a machine that mills down the ribs in the form liner to create the outline of the image,” says Gate Director of Marketing and Sales Marshall Bassett. “The liner was placed into the form and concrete poured on top.” Shadows cast by the form liner ribs bring images to life, he adds.

For the stenciled flat panels, replicating library images was both time consuming and challenging, since the stencils had to be physically cut and placed. Once in the forms, the stencils were treated with a chemical to expose aggregate in the voids.

Finding the right mix design was critical, notes Gate/Ashland City Vice President and Operations Manager Bill Henderson. The Witness Walls project team ultimately chose a mix containing dark aggregates, including arrowood, with an “as cast” light gray background to provide the necessary contrast. The producer hopes to use the technology again for similar monuments.