One of the world’s largest glass mosaic murals is mounted on the west-facing wall of Villa Harvey Mandel, a St. Vincent de Paul Village affordable housing complex, in San Diego, California, USA. This spectacular glass mosaic mural brings art to the community: art in a low maintenance, durable yet viewable manner. Called “Neighbors Helping Neighbors: A Tribute to Donors, Volunteers & Staff”, it was designed and erected by Botti Studio of Architectural Arts, a Chicago-based company whose ancestry dates back to late 16th-century Italy.
The mural stands 72 feet tall and stretches 42 feet from side to side. Each section of stained glass, mounted on prefabricated cement slabs, measures 3 feet by 5 feet. The complete work is comprised of 226 slabs whose total weight is more than 6.75 tons.
The mural features images of the many ways Village supporters have contributed to the organisation over the years. Likenesses of volunteers accompanying children to summer camp, a doctor treating a patient, a foster grandparent comforting an infant and other displays of outreach adorn the piece, and help make this work applicable to the community while telling the story of outstanding contributors to the community.
“The design was based on concepts and sketches developed while working with St. Vincent’s representatives,” said Mike Smoucha of Botti Studio. “A wide range of opalescent flat glass from various domestic and international manufacturers was used to create the final work of art.”
According to Mitch Hawkins, Laticrete’s Technical Services Training Manager, this project made extensive use of the company’s products and project support technical services. A wide range of time and jobsite proven Laticrete products were selected due to their long term proven dependability for glass mosaic murals. On this project long-term durability in an exterior climatic situation was important to the owner as well as to the contractors involved with this project. Laticrete adhesive mortars and stainless, colour-fast grouts provide the strength and performance required to insure a long term, beautiful glass mosaic mural that will be enjoyed by future generations.
Laticrete products utilised included 9235 waterproofing membrane, Latapoxy 300 epoxy adhesive, 211 crete filler powder, 4237 latex thin-set mortar additive, SpectraLock grout and Tile and Stone Sealant.
Latapoxy 300 Epoxy Adhesive was used in conjunction with a mechanical anchoring system to mount the mosaic to the buildings exterior wall.
The six-story project provides housing to the elderly, disabled, and other individuals on fixed incomes in eighty-five studio apartments and five one-bedroom units. Rents range between $399 to $511: amounts well below the San Diego region’s average monthly housing cost.
The new structure is named after Harvey Mandel, the late St. Vincent’s vice-president who died in 2001. The design team, led by James Holmberg III, included Don Reeves, Judy Starr and Sillman Wright Architects. The project was built by Sundt Construction, Burkett & Wong Civil and Structural Engineers, Lynsys Electrical Engineering, and TMAD Mechanical and Plumbing Engineers. Deneen Powell Atelier was the landscape architect.
This article first appeared in Tile UK, March 2004.