Decorative concrete played a role in the construction of a Native American landmark in Ignacio, Colo., that drew hundreds to its opening ceremony in May.
The Southern Ute Cultural Center & Museum, designed by Jones & Jones Architects and Landscape Architects Ltd. of Seattle and built by Grand Junction, Colo.-based FCI Constructors Inc., includes 13,300 square feet of stained concrete flooring indoors, outdoor seating made with precast and sandblasted concrete, and colored, exposed-aggregate concrete sidewalks.
Members of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Colorado’s oldest continuous group of residents, first envisioned the facility, at which they can conserve and promote their culture, nearly 25 years ago. Thanks to funding from the tribe as well as donations and grants, general construction for the $38 million project began in 2009.
The 52,000-square foot facility includes a multimedia room, permanent and temporary exhibit rooms, a library and arts and crafts classrooms and serves as both a museum for the public and an event site for members of the community and Southern Ute Indian Tribe. It’s situated on 8.5 acres of the 310,000-acre Southern Ute reservation in southern Colorado.
Tribe members played an integral role in the project from start to finish. A board of directors led by tribal member Robert Burch provided input throughout the project’s design phases. The tribe’s culture is reflected not only in the design of the building itself, but in the many saw-cut and hand-tooled joint lines found on surfaces both inside and outside center walls.
“The Southern Ute Cultural Center & Museum is an amazing building,” says Chris Sullivan, vice president of sales and marketing for ChemSystems Inc., a material supplier on the project. “All aspects of the building were designed with symbolism or spiritualism of the Southern Ute tribe.”
Dark stain indoors
Responsible for the interior floor staining work was Bob Reynolds, president of Durango, Colo.-based Advanced Concrete Solutions, who completed his portion of the project in several increments from October 2010 to March 2011. Designers chose an acid stain in a dark shade, ChemSystems Inc.’s ChromaStain in Blackfoot, to cover 13,300 square feet in the building’s entrance area, classrooms, craft room, multipurpose room, hallways and a portion of the library.
“They were going for a fairly rich, dark floor color,” Reynolds says. “They wanted something subtle that wouldn’t be so modern and would go with the theme of tribal heritage.”
Reynolds and his crew began their work by pouring a 3-inch integrally colored concrete slab over an existing structural concrete slab on the portions of the floor that were to be stained. He used a concrete mix supplied by tribe-owned Sky Ute Sand & Gravel that was tinted with Davis Colors’ Pigment Powder in Cocoa.
In the facility’s entrance area, the Welcome Gallery, the Advanced Concrete Solutions crew saw-cut straight lines, a large circle and the letters N, S, E and W to mark the four directions of a compass, a symbol that has cultural significance for the tribe. Cultural design elements are abundant throughout the building — for example, above the compass point saw-cuts at the peak of the Welcome Gallery’s ceiling is a section of stained glass dubbed the “Circle of Life window.”
After 28 days of curing, the crew cleaned the entire slab and applied multiple coats of acid stain, followed by several coats of ChemSystems Inc.’s Solvent Seal 18 and 27, which Reynolds says helped produce a deeper, richer color for the floor than a water-based sealer would have. They finished with four coats of Surtec Inc.’s Natural Beauty floor polish.
“It was pretty monochromatic, and they kept wanting to go darker and darker with the color,” Reynolds says.
Because the floor is so dark and will endure a great deal of foot traffic, a big challenge to Southern Ute Cultural Center & Museum maintenance workers will be keeping it clean, Reynolds says. He hosted a maintenance seminar for them to reiterate the importance of following a strict upkeep plan, which includes regular mopping and continued applications of the Natural Beauty floor polish.
Yellow and sandblasting outside
Meanwhile, workers from Albuquerque, N.M.-based Noel Co., a commercial and industrial concrete contractor, were busy developing a number of outdoor concrete features at the center: about 8,500 square feet of yellow-tinted concrete sidewalks with exposed aggregate, plus retaining walls, monument walls and about 300 linear feet of precast, sandblasted concrete benches.
Noel used Top-Cast, a water-based surface retarder from Grace Construction Products, in Yellow in its exposed aggregate sidewalk installation. Working off the designers’ layout, the Noel crew also hand-tooled joints into the sidewalks at a variety of angles. Monument walls sport engravings that hold symbolic meaning for the tribe.
The contractor built custom plywood molds for the precast seating features from scratch, says Noel’s Rex Howard. The benches, which were then sandblasted, curve to form semicircles.
These outdoor concrete features complement the Southern Ute Cultural Center & Museum’s lush grounds. The facility’s outdoor property includes gardens that hold trees, plants, flowers and herbs, a horse corral and hiking trails. Noel workers followed designers’ placement instructions carefully, as each outdoor concrete feature helped tie the entire facility’s design together.
“It’s laid out like a big radius — if you look at the entire building and grounds from the air, everything lines up,” says Noel concrete superintendent Carl Rhodes.
Looking at the Southern Ute Cultural Center & Museum project as a whole, the role of decorative concrete may be on the small side, but contractors say they valued the opportunity to contribute their skills to such a unique piece of architecture.
“We were honored to be a part of a building with such cultural significance,” Reynolds says. “The Southern Ute tribe is a large part of our region. We’ve done a few jobs for them before, but this was the most architecturally significant building.”
Project at a Glance
Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Ignacio, Colo.
Decorative Concrete Contractor (Indoor Work):
Bob Reynolds, Advanced Concrete Solutions, Durango, Colo. | www.advancedconcrete.com
Structural Concrete Contractor (Outdoor Work):
Noel Co., Albuquerque, N.M. | www.noelcompany.com
Jones & Jones Architects and Landscape Architects Ltd., Seattle, Wash.
FCI Constructors Inc., Grand Junction, Colo. | www.fciol.com
Scope of project:
13,300 square feet of indoor stained concrete floors, about 8,500 square feet of exposed aggregate concrete sidewalks, retaining walls, precast concrete benches
Duration of project:
Two years to build the entire facility
ChemSystems Inc., Surtec Inc., Davis Colors, Grace Construction Products, Sky Ute Sand & Gravel (based in Ignacio, Colo.)
Concrete Equipment & Supply LLC, Western Colorado
CSI Color Enhancer, CSI ChromaStain in Blackfoot, and CSI Solvent Seal 18 and 27 from ChemSystems Inc.; Natural Beauty from Surtec Inc.; Powder Pigment in Cocoa from Davis Colors; Top-Cast in Yellow from Grace Construction Products