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The following articles are taken from the MC aktiv publication and curated by Buidling Chemical Supplies Ltd. Content contained is therefore the property of MC-Bauchemie Müller GmbH & Co. KG.

Concrete Passion

Sculptor Sven Backstein finds new uses for the most popular and versatile building material. Concrete, an essential ingredient in the world of construction, is making its way into the world of art. Sven Backstein from ldstein, originally a trained engineer, is a sculptor with a passion for concrete.

Munich Arena Munich Arena

"I am fascinated by this material. I tried it out and was instantly hooked. Concrete is highly adaptable, readily available, weather-resistant and non-toxic. I can mould it into almost any shape or form. I texteure the concrete, paint over it or pigment it when missing it. It’s so versatile!", says Sven. Not surprisingly, his workplace looks more like a building site than a studio. His work ranges from animal and social settings, busts, portraits and furniture to large scale abstract forms.

In order to construct large scale forms, the concrete, which is applied onto a metal frame. Has to be very robust. Concrete and mortars for Sven’s reactions have to be suited to the tasks in hand. Ordinary mixtures of sand and cement do not have the properties that the artist needs to transform his concepts into reality. With some chemical know-how from MC-Bauchemie, a very special mortar admixture, Centripor TFM 411, Sven is able to realise his creative ambitions. Fuelled by his imagination, anything is possible.

Concrete is dull and boring? Think again!

Limitless Imitations

The free design of landscapes using artificial stone instead of real natural rocks is growing in popularity internationally. Almost every recreation and theme park, be it in Singapore, Dubai or Germany considers it important to create the perfect illusion. With Oxal RM, the special spray mortar from MC, all this and much more can be created.

The sculpting mortar is a cement based material, with which it is possible to model complex free standing structures. Not only can realistic looking rocks be reproduced but also animals, trees, Indian temples and fairytale castles. Using matrix material technology, surfaces can also be given any kind of texture- be it wood, masonry or brickwork. The mortar, which is available in various colours, can also be used to repair historic buildings and carry out re-profiling work on facades and decorative features.

1:1 Scale modelled elephant Castle from Shrek

In order to create a sculpture, such as an elephant, a stable metal frame is constructed to form a working platform. Over this a base of render is applied. In many cases, expanded metal is used. Then, using the wet spray technique, a two centimetre layer of the special mortar is applied. The non-shrink mortar sets in such a way that it is firm the next day and thus enables the application of the final layer. This final coat can be carved and modelled by experienced artists and sculptors over several hours. The fact that the mortar can even true-to-nature animals on a 1:1 scale can be created using the special spray mortar.

Be reworked over a long period of time makes it possible to create very detailed forms and textures. Oxal RM-L is the material of choice for delicate carvings and normal loads, such as for reproducing the appearance and texture of wood grain, clinker bricks and quarried stones. Oxal RM-H is used for structural and mechanical loads, such as for climbing walls, accessible structures and underwater landscapes. The M 25 strength category, water impermeability and frost resistance ensure a range of durable application possibilities.

It is therefore no surprise that architects, sculptors and theme park operators, such as those at Sentosa Integrated Resort in Singapore or Dubailand in the UAE which will be the world's largest amusement park when completed, are increasingly using this special mortar to design perfect imitations

Perfect Landscape Illusions

Adventure zoos, theme and leisure parks are enjoying increasing popularity throughout Europe. An important factor in the design is to provide as realistic a representation as possible of rocks, landscapes and buildings from real or imagined places that transport the visitors to exotic worlds.

As mountains are infamously difficult to move, they must be recreated as realistically as possible by highly-specialised, creative artists. German, Italian, French and Portuguese specialist companies, in particular, have made a name for themselves in this field. To construct true-to-nature, rocklike structures, you need a stable, framework normally made from stainless steel. A base layer of plaster is applied to the frames. This is followed by two wet spray applied coats of MC's specially developed concrete, Oxal-RM. The first layer consists of material with a maximum particle size of 4mm and the second has a maximum particle size of 2mm. By using the wet spray technique and two different particle sizes delicate and accurate profiles can be achieved and, simultaneously, large areas can be covered.

Oxal for Theme Park Modelling

The material thickness for normal rock sculptures is between 6 and 10cm, which is sprayed on in several layers 3-4cm. Each layer needs approximately one day to cure. The concrete, which is modified by the addition of pozzolanic materials is also suitable for underwater features. The top layers can be applied in the morning and then, in the afternoon - mainly using a scratching technique - it can be further sculpted for many hours, although, at first glance, it appears to be solid. For the finished layers, solid-coloured concrete in ochre, a reddish brown tone, umber and anthracite can be used. Although the artificial rocks are often further shaded with acrylic paints, they can be weathered and aged unlike rocks formed of polystyrene. In addition, the appearance is more natural and the feel of the surface comes very close to that of real stone. Using a stencilling technique, specialists can also create walls with a natural stone look. After full curing all structures, created with Oxal-RM, are sufficiently strong to take foot traffic. They have a strength of at least 10-15 N/mm2, which is comparable to a normal screed.

Rocks for Zoos and Leisure Parks

Since the middle of the 1990s, this special concrete has established itself with a number of spectacular projects in zoos and adventure parks. At Leipzig Zoo, the Namibian rocks of the African savannah, the Ganesha Mandir elephant temple and the adjoining grounds were all formed using Oxal-RM. Currently, the Gondwanaland is being developed into Europe's largest tropical enclosure. All the artificial rocks will be made using this special MC concrete, Oxal-RM. MC has already gained experience in the creation of tropical paradises. For example MC's products were used in the construction of Tropical Island, a 66,000m2 spa oasis south of Berlin boasting the world's largest indoor rainforest. Other examples are Belantis, the mythical theme park in Leipzig and in Billund, Denmark Legoland uses Oxal-RM: around the Pirate Splash Battle, a towering rock with a giant skull created in the middle of a pool.

In Rio Negro - the fresh water dolphin area at Duisburg Zoo – Oxal-RM is also used for underwater applications. Above the waterline, the rocks, which have root systems on them, were also planted. Also in Duisburg, the monkey house was decorated using Oxal. However, when animals are going to come into contact with the artificial stone, attention must be paid to ensure that all cavities are filled, as animals often assume that there is food behind cavities. The material's resistance to urine is also proving to be beneficial. For more sensitive species, such as the Great Apes in the Bonoboland of Frankfurt Zoo, the artificial rocks can also be heated. In Yukon Bay, which opened in Hanover Zoo in May and is a Canadian themed section with a huge range of animals such as wolves, caribous, penguins and polar bears, it is more the frost resistance which is of interest.

Other examples are provided by the Hippodrom in Cologne Zoo, the zoos in Saarbrucken and Osnabruck and the Singing Mountain on the Wild Island at Emscher Park. As well as such extensive structures, the material has also been used in smaller structures, such as trees, play equipment on playgrounds, ponds and even for imaginative saunas and facilities on cruise ships. With decades of experience and a great detailed knowledge, Dr. Andreas Zahn advises the customers, planners and craftsmen.

Rugby Sculpture with Light Mortar by MC

New Zealand, who is already rugby mad; was characterized this year by the most popular sport in the country: The 7th Rugby World Cup was held in the Pacific island state in the autumn. All the sport venues undertook many ventures here, in order to offer the guests from all over the world a pleasant atmosphere outside the stadiums. For the capital Wellington a sculpture was made specially that is dedicated to the sport of rugby. A light mortar by MC was used here.

The Rugby World Cup is the most important international competition of the Rugby Union and has been held every four years in a different country each time since 1987. New Zealand won the selection in November 2005 and became host of the Rugby World Cup 2011. From 9 September to 23 October 20 national teams competed for the Webb Ellis Cup in a total of 48 games. This is named after William Webb Ellis, who is said to have invented the game. In this year's final the New Zealand team, also called "All Blacks" because of their black sports uniform were able to assert themselves against France with 8:7 and so became Rugby world champion for the second time.

Greatest sports event in New Zealand

The Rugby World Cup is considered to be the biggest sports event in New Zealand up to now, to which approximately 95,000 visitors came from overseas alone. The total number of spectators in the stadiums and at live broadcasts on large screens on many public places is estimated at approx. four million.

To mark the World Cup the municipality of Wellington commissioned a sculpture for a central site in the town to symbolize the importance of the national sport rugby. Weta was entrusted with the implementation. This was an internationally active company that creates and manufactures primarily stage props, costumes, requisites and masks. Among the best known films that Weta was involved in, are "King Kong", the "Lord of the Rings" Trilogy, "The Hobbit" and the current "Tim and Struppi" film.

Heroic sculpture

For the rugby sculpture Weta owner and artist Sir Richard Taylor submitted a draft that spanned an arc between the sport of rugby and the town of Wellington. Waves that run together form the lower part of the sculpture. They symbolize the location of the town on the southern tip of the island, where Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet. The scenery represents a so-called line out. Here, one player is lifted up by his fellow players, to catch a high flying ball from the side line, so that this stays in the game. The sculpture, over five metres high, was produced in Weta's own workshops. 35 members of staff worked on the work of art for a year. Primarily Masterplast MW-F of MC Malaysia was used here. It is a synthetic modified light mortar that is also used for making figures and rock structures. Due to its good processing characteristics it can be shaped into any thinkable form, so that even complex objects can be modelled with it.

Further examples of applications

It wasn't the first time for the Weta Crew that they used Masterplast MW. Props had been made with this light mortar already for the cinema films "King Kong" and the "Lord of the Rings" Trilogy as well as for the computer game "Halo". It was also used for the rugby sculpture because of the positive experiences made here. But Masterplast MW is not only used at Weta. Trees and rock formations have been copied with this material in the whole of New Zealand. In Wellington Zoo big animal figures have also been made, on which children can climb and play.

Rugby Sculpture in Wellington New Zealand

Boundless Creativity with Oxal RM

Whether on a visit to a zoo, an adventure park or a spa and relaxation centre visitors are exposed to amazing landscapes, exotic buildings and sculptures. They appear so realistic that the boundaries between reality and illusion seem to merge. Illusion is a word that conjures up thoughts of magic, but it is one that accurately describes the impressions created by craftsmen and artisans when they create these replicas.

You must indeed have a great deal of imagination to dream up an entire landscape composed of what in reality is a metal framework overlaid with cement based mortars", says Dr. Andreas Zahn, who co-developed Oxal RM mortar during the 1990s. The mineralogist is standing in Rostock's future DARWINEUM in front of a 900 square metre building site that will be transformed into a rain forest. This large-scale project demonstrates how critical the mortar properties are to achieve a realistic appearance. Oxal possesses these textural properties and is capable of sustaining normal and high structural loads.

Application made easy

While the observer may gaze the results of a painstaking and creative process, the reality under the mortar, is less spectacular. The initial phase usually consists of a rustproof metal frame, onto which Oxal RM mortar is applied using the wet spray process. A certain number of layers are applied depending on the project, with one day needed to dry out each coat. Even though the mortar, which contains highly reactive pozzolanic materials, may appear to be already set, it can still be sculpted for hours afterwards.

Oxal for Theme Park Modelling Oxal for Theme Park Modelling

Scoring highly with quality aesthetics and optimum properties

The list of reference projects is long and some impressive examples are to be found in the zoo segment. Landscapes within adventure parks and spa and relaxation centres are increasingly being designed to be as realistic as possible. A waterfall splashes here, a calming temple vista over there entices visitors to re lax and forget their everyday worries. Passengers on the Queen Elisabeth cruise ship may have already experienced the sauna area, which resembles a snow covered icy landscape, which was created using special Oxal RM. The priority now is to generate more awareness of the range of applications, because the possible uses of Oxal are unbelievably diverse", stresses Andreas Zahn, who lists the benefits that the material's properties have brought to numerous projects while complying with a wide range of customer specifications. The aesthetic aspect is also important. The contours and the colours have a deceptively realistic appearance and even the aging process appears natural. One of the substances that make up these mortars is calcium carbonate. It attracts algae and weathers just like sandstone and after three years the material looks even more realistic than when it was made", says the mineralogist. In addition, artificial and natural elements can be combined as with the, genuine" tree fungus thriving on an artificial tree trunk.

Oxal RM is also well suited to the restoration of existing buildings. Matrix technology enables the user to create surface textures of his own choosing, from wood to masonry effect. And when it comes to re-profiling facades and decorative features, Oxal RM is an excellent choice for both indoors and out.

Illusion or Reality?

Interview with Uwe Thurnau

How important is the quality of the substrate material and what are the properties of the special mortar Oxal RM that you appreciate the most?

Clients, particularly zoological gardens, have high demands concerning quality. Ultimately, the artificially created landscapes have to withstand various climatic conditions, water- think only of waterfalls and aquariums and of course the high impact of people and animals. Therefore, it is of critical importance to work with a high quality substrate. What I like most about Oxal RM is that it is so good to work with, because it is essential for the material to be malleable and easy to model. The layout already prepared on the computer is then applied to the object using charcoal. Facade paint is used for the colour scheme. It is helpful here that the final coat of mortar is applied pre-coloured. The colours available are Namibia Red, Ochre, Anthracite, Umbra and Creme.

Oxal for Theme Park Modelling Oxal for Theme Park Modelling

What modelling properties must the mortar have?

The landscapes should resemble the particular natural surroundings as much as possible. Modelling requires time and we get that from the particular composition of the mortar. We use various techniques The landscape painter Uwe Thurnau (60) studied graphics and painting at the University of the Arts in Berlin and he paints three-dimensional landscapes (dioramas), for natural history museums and zoological gardens. His artistic works captivate viewers with a loving attention to detail and their likeness to natural materials that enable us to achieve highly realistic imitation rock faces, varieties of wood and trees, stones, reliefs etc.

What are some of the projects in which Oxal RM has been used?

The number of such projects is already quite high. By way of some representative examples, I could mention a children's day care centre in Berlin and landscape projects in zoos in Vienna, Duisburg, Frankfurt, Magdeburg, Osnabruck and Karlsruhe. My team is currently working on the aviary for Berlin Zoo and on the interior design of Rostock's DARWINEUM, a large facility for housing great apes. During the realisation phase, I remain in constant contact with Dr. Zahn, and we need to use the best possible special mortar for the particular task. The Rostock Zoo project is scheduled for completion in the autumn of 2012. Visitors will have the sensation of passing through a ravine right into the middle of a rain forest landscape an African rain forest for the gorillas and an Asian one for the orangutans.