Moving a Priceless Mural in Olympia, WA
- Airskate system
- Grove GMK 5275 crane
When our machinery moving and crane services teams work together, good things tend to happen. It’s not every day, though, that they work on a project that has an entire city holding their breath. Before the city of Olympia could tear down an old administrative building, they had one problem: a priceless mural, commissioned in 1956, depicting Washington State’s industrial and natural resources. At 30 feet wide and 12½ feet tall, the mural needed a new home, but transporting it was going to be a major challenge.
The department hired A to B Builders, who turned to Omega Morgan’s Seattle office for help in this risky and delicate task. In all, the mural contains 150,000 small pieces of Byzantine glass and stone, adhered to a curved concrete wall. Transportation to its new home had to occur in one piece, with no natural seams allowing to deconstruction.
The Challenge: Low Clearance and Weak Floors
In preparing for the project, our team discovered two major challenges. First, the mural was just barely shorter than the opening through which it had to fit to exit the building. Taking it apart was not an option, nor was the typical wheels to move it forward. Another solution had to be found.
Second, the 30,000 pound mural was heavier than the floors upon which it had to be transported could potentially support. Any movement within the building had to include a solution to make sure that the ground could support the move without potentially damaging the artwork.
Compared to these two major challenges, the rest of the planning was straightforward. The roads on which the transport would occur had to be shut down to avoid interference. Finally, the crane pick outside the building had to include support at 12 points instead of the usual 3 or 4 to avoid stretching or warping the mural.
The Process: Leveraging Air Skates and Shoring Work
In anticipation of potential floor support issues, Omega Morgan worked with engineering firm Associated Consultants to calculate how much load the flooring could actually hold. Based on that calculation, our team shored the lower level with 100 shoring poles and about 30 I-beams.
The clearance presented more problems that could only be solved with careful planning. After analyzing images and dimensions of the mural, our team decided on 12 low-profile air skates to move it without adding too much height. That brought total height of the mural within its frame to 12 ft 4.75 inches, leaving just about an inch clearance from the ceiling. As an additional benefit, the number of air skates transferred the weight evenly to avoid damage to the curved mural and its 150,000 tiles.
The team filed two permits with the city to clear the roads for the move itself. Finally, for the pick we leveraged a Grove GMK 5275 crane with 12 points to lift up the mural in its frame and set it safely to transport to its new location.
The Result: A Flawless Move with Local Coverage
In total, Omega Morgan worked for two days to achieve resounding success. The mural and all its 150,000 individual tiles were transported safely, without a single break or shift. A to B Builders were able to fulfill their contract to full satisfaction. Now, the city of Olympia can continue to pride itself in this priceless piece of art.
The move was so unusual that it received local press coverage in multiple outlets. A local radio station covered the move from the start, while Fiber One News built a television segment around the mural’s journey to its new home. We’re happy to help the State of Washington in preserving its art, and proud of our team’s experience and expertise that helped make this challenging move flawless.