You’ve heard of Stonehenge, right? How about Carhenge? It’s an installation of half-buried cars, all laid out in a circular pattern that mimics the site’s much older and more famous cousin. The pocket of western Nebraska that includes Carhenge and the nearby town of Alliance can seem about as windblown and mystically alien as the legendary British Isles site itself.
“It was pretty far from anywhere, that’s what I remember most,” says decorative concrete contractor Shane Siefken of Justrite Surfaces. Justrite, of Council Bluffs, Iowa, was given the contract to grind and polish the aggregate concrete floor of the newly constructed Knight Museum and Sandhills Center. Owned by the City of Alliance, the museum showcases the region and its culture.
The facility floor is textured with stones, some as large as an inch and a half in diameter, all brought to life with a grind and polish process using L.M. Scofield Co.’s Formula One Lithium Densifier and finish coat. “They wanted it to look like the earth,” says Mark Chew, district sales representative for L.M. Scofield. “It will reflect the heritage of the Plains.”
That’s why those chunks of stone in the floor were trucked in from throughout Nebraska and the Plains region, a reminder as near as your feet of what the facility is all about. Chew, who worked with the client from the beginning to help bring their vision to life, calls the end product “the most beautiful floor I have ever seen polished.”
It was conceived to be as naturally attractive and imperfect as the country it celebrates. Chew says that his clients told him that if the concrete cracked, that wasn’t a bad thing.
As city official Shana Brown put it in an e-mail to Chew: “The design for the Knight Museum and Sandhills Center seeks to capture the spirit of ‘place.’ The essence of the Sandhills and the life that exists within it is a central theme to the structure. Keeping to that theme, the interior concrete floors are ground and polished to expose local aggregates, thus mimicking similar qualities to the surrounding earth. Over time, this concrete will crack and patina in just as the earth in the Sandhills does.” Becci Thomas, curator for the Knight Museum, says the new floor is “very attractive, kind of eye-catching and will provide a good backdrop for our displays. It fits in very thematically with what we’re doing here.”
It will also be easy on the budget. “They’ve got a very low-maintenance floor with no sealing and no waxing,” says Chew.
For the roughly 9,000 residents of Alliance, Neb., it will be a floor as rugged and seemingly eternal as the land beneath them. Or at least as permanent a part of the landscape as Carhenge.