IMAGINE Supersized!

The Stanley A. Milner public library is in downtown Edmonton, Alberta. The Library was built in 1967 and has recently undergone an extensive 84.5 million dollar renovation that will be open to the public this summer. We were thrilled to add the Exhibit Studio touch to this project!

As you enter the Shelley Milner Children’s Library, it will be impossible to miss the vibrant multi-coloured 5-foot tall letters that spell out IMAGINE mounted to a 35-foot long wall. Upon a close-up inspection of the letters, you will discover the names of all the library donors carefully placed along the letters’ side. The finished art piece is an impressive focal point in the space and visible from every angle.

The project was fun to work on and presented numerous challenges, including the very element that gave the project much of its WOW factor, making our work much more complicated. The wall is angled, but the word IMAGINE needed to be straight.

The library design team envisioned the letters would appear as if they were emerging from the inside of the wall. It sounded cool, and the concept drawings looked cool, but we had to put our thinking caps on.

Problem 1: The wall had many angles.

The wall was not linear in any way. Throughout the 35 foot run of wall, where the letters were to be mounted, multiple corners had been built into the wall, meaning we had no consistent straight lines to guide us while taking measurements for the build and installation. Luckily the base of the wall at floor level was the one straight line that we could utilize. The bottom of the letters was to appear two feet from the floor.

We built a mini frame to create a precise baseline along the wall for templating heights, distances, and angles from the baseboard, floor, and wall. We used the frames to measure and position full-scale 2D mock-ups of the letters accurately. Doing this enabled us to mark reference points on the 2D letters that would serve to produce the foundation for 3D renderings and, ultimately, the final 3D letters. They also served as the bases and clamps for the final installation of the finished project.  

Problem 2: We are in Calgary, and the wall was in Edmonton.

The logistics of going back and forth to template the wall meant we had one shot at getting it right. David and Kelly made a trip to Edmonton and spent hours measuring the walls and angles to make sure we got the perfect fit for the letters before we fabricated the real ones. Take a peak at the January edition of Edmonton’s AVENUE Magazine where you will David and Kelly hard at work measuring the templates for the letters!

The measurements were templated and then converted to create 3D drawings. Each letter would have a unique back shape, but the fronts had to have a face, top, and bottom that formed a flush line when viewed from the sides. Our templated 2D letters allowed for the reconciliation of the entire display even though we were over 300 km away.

Measure twice, cut once! The 3D models were milled from large blocks of hard coated styrofoam. Once completed, the letters were hard-coated to create durable, washable, and smooth surfaces to ensure that IMAGINE would remain vibrant for many years.

We used an epoxy paint on the 3D letters for added durability and prepped the surfaces so that our graphics would permanently adhere to the foam. The design was a very cool, bright puzzle of multiple vibrant colours that make the letters jump out at visitors. They add a playful, energetic, and creative spark to the space.

Adding the donor names presented another challenge. The letter sidewall measurements were not consistent from one letter to the next because of the efforts made to have the faces of the letters flush from I to E. Our print technician created a template for each side of the letters and positioned each name to fit. 

Once completed in late February 2020, we had to make one more trip for the final installation. On March 11th, COVID – 19 was declared a global pandemic , producing another set of challenges: maintaining strict health protocols while traveling and working when most things were closing in Calgary and Edmonton. We managed to find a window of time in mid-March to make the trip and get the job done. Two staff traveled in separate vehicles, stayed in different rooms, and practiced social distancing throughout the installation. Using an anchor system we developed in our shop, good old PL Premium, and the original templating benches we built, we had the installation completed in five hours. We let it cure overnight, removed the benches the next day. 

Immediately, there was interest among the employees who were still working on finishing the Library’s more extensive renovation project. “How did you do that?” Was a common question that morning.

Of course…we can’t share all of our secrets!

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