21 Aug 2014
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Engineer Gives Final Report On Threatened Sculpture

Though its core is deteriorating, a final report from structural engineers say "Chain Reaction" is not an imminent hazard.

Engineer Gives Final Report On Threatened Sculpture

Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Paul Conrad's anti-nuke sculpture, called Chain Reaction, at might not be in danger of toppling over after all.

A structural engineer has wrapped up his final report on the sculpture's stability, concluding it's "not an imminent hazard nor should it be considered dangerous."

"It is definitely better than was initially feared," said Jessica Cusick, cultural affairs manager for the city of Santa Monica.

Preliminary reports had found the 26-foot tall nuclear mushroom sculpture was corroded and could topple in an earthquake or sever windstorm. The price tag for repairs was put at $423,172. Officials were not prepared to use city money and instead gave the community, including Conrad's son, six months to fundraise.

In its final report, structural engineers Melvyn Green and Associates warned there "may be an issue" if kids climb atop the artwork as they have done in years past. There's already a fence erected around the piece to prevent children from scaling it.

Screws connecting hundreds of continuous chain links—some double and triple draped in bunches that are layered and welded together—to its core are designed to withhold weight up to 120 pounds.

The firm also forecast Chain Reaction's life at just 10 more years because fiberglass encasing its steel core is deteriorating, "probably at an accelerating rate."

"The issues that were raised regarding the longevity of the work are still there, particularly in regard to the fiberglass," Cuisck said.

Ron Takiguchi, the City’s  Building Official will use the report to make a recommendation on what needs to be done to make the sculpture safe, in the short and long terms. 

Then Cusick said she could work on getting refined cost estimates.

Conrad, who died in 2010, served in World War II and won Pulitzers in 1964, 1971 and 1984 for his " fiercely confrontational" political cartoons.

Conrad sculpted "Chain Reaction" at the tail end of the Cold War, when the West and East raced to bolster their weapons chests, escalating fears of a repeat of the 1945 nuclear attacks on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It was installed on the lawn outside the Santa Monica Civic Center in 1991 with a 4-3 vote of the City Council, despite opposition from residents. When the city gauged public opinion of the sculpture by putting it to a citywide vote, 1,100 residents cast ballots. Those against its placement in Santa Monica outnumbered those in favor of it by two-to-one.

In July of this year, the city's Landmark Commission voted unanimously to designate Chain Reaction a landmark.


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