Wooden mural transformed into an all-aluminum, all-weather work of art

July 16, 2018

Custom aluminum display panel board with mural in Canada

The residents of Pointe-Saint-Charles, Quebec, now have the 3,000-year history of their community displayed in a colorful, outdoor mural supported by a 1.5-tonne (3,300 lb) all-aluminum, all-weather structure in a borough southwest of downtown Montreal.

July 16, 2018 — Boucherville, Quebec, Canada — Before the mural could be officially inaugurated in June, its creation gave its production team two major technical problems to solve.

First, the original mural, which illustrates the history of Pointe-Saint-Charles from the Amerindian period to the present day, was painted on 13 wood panels, with a total width of 15.8 m (52 ft) and a height of 2.4 m (8 ft).

Jean Lewis, the City of Montreal engineer and manager in charge of the project, had to find a solution for exposing this work of art to the residents of Pointe-Saint-Charles without having it diminished by the weather. Clearly, the original work in wood could not withstand the elements.

Second, Lewis wanted the solution to reproduce the visual impact of the original mural, which displayed the colorful art seamlessly on 13 wood panels.


MAADI Group provides answers

Lewis’ early research revealed that the corrosion-resistant, low-maintenance material he needed for the mural was aluminum. Consulting with Alex de la Chevrotière, CEO of MAADI Group, Lewis found the CEO’s insights cast his project in a new light.

Following a successful bid at the City of Montreal’s public tender, MAADI Group worked closely with Lewis to fabricate and install the mural’s supporting structure. “MAADI’s contribution was to support me in the design process,” Lewis said. “It was a key contribution. As a manufacturer with great expertise, they carried out the project with flying colors.”

The solution

At first, Lewis considered having the mural’s image transferred directly onto the aluminum panels, but he found a more sustainable solution.

High-definition photographs of each of the 13 wood panels were taken, then printed at a large-format printing shop on 3MTM ControltacTM film. With its pressure-sensitive adhesive backing, this film was then applied to 13 panels of 5052 aluminum plates.

A big challenge remained: how could the team maintain a seamless effect for the mounted panels when seasonal temperatures could vary from -25°C (-13°F) to 35°C (95°F)?

Custom aluminum display panel board with mural in Canada

The magic behind the aluminum panels

The panels of the mural are, Lewis said, “like the wagons of a miniature train set that are all hooked to each other. So they expand or contract with each other, and they can move on the structure.”

While attached to one another, the panels, of course, are also riveted to the aluminum support structure in a floating arrangement that accommodates the dimensional changes the seasons bring. These rivets had to be shear-tested in a lab before usage.

To maintain a seamless appearance, the panels also had to stay aligned vertically. Consequently, the supporting posts were installed so that all were level on three axes. “These installation challenges,” said Lewis, “were met with brio by MAADI.”

The supporting structure

Designed to the “Strength Design in Aluminum” standard of CAN/CSA-S157-05/S157.1-05 (R2015), the supporting structure of the mural consists of 5052 aluminum plates and 6061 aluminum extrusions. Welding complies with the standards of CSA W47.2 division 1 for Fusion Welding of Aluminum.

“The collaboration with Jean Lewis was intense and very pleasant,” said de la Chevrotière. “MAADI Group is proud to have made such an integral contribution to a work of art that will become a daily part of people’s lives in Pointe-Saint-Charles.”

The collaboration

Alex de la Chevrotière (left), CEO of MAADI Group, with Jean Lewis, engineer and project manager with the City of Montreal.

The story behind the mural

The residents of Pointe-Saint-Charles have a history of social commitment and activism. The non-profit called the Carrefour d’éducation populaire de Pointe-Saint-Charles (Pointe-Saint-Charles Center for Public Education) wished to commemorate the history of its neighborhood and its own contribution to the community. So it asked Gilbert Ouellet, a long-time painter and art teacher at the center, to lead the project.

The creation of the mural took two years, and involved the contributions of about 30 people. From right to left, the mural depicts the original Amerindian residents, the French and English settlers who followed, and shows the community passing through it economic boom, bust, and renaissance to the present day.

Ouellet saw the project as “a way of working with my students, and then leading them into doing research, because the history exists but few people know about it.”

Overall, Ouellet felt “It was very enriching for me, it was very enriching for all who participated. It was also enriching for Pointe-Saint-Charles and the history of Montreal.”


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