Washington D.C. is renowned for its captivating museums, and The Museum of the Bible is no exception. It provides a place for people from all over the world to learn about the history, narrative, and impact of the Bible.
One room of the museum has a specific purpose: to transport visitors back in time to the world of Jesus of Nazareth. Complete with stone walls, dirt floors, olive trees, flickering lamps, and the sounds of wooden carts, every detail in this room creates an immersive experience—even the resurfaced concrete floors.
Jonathan Martin of JMC: Museum Arts LLC contacted SUNDEK of Washington with a request—to make floors for the immersive room that would look like dirt. SUNDEK was up for the challenge. Over the next few months, JMC and SUNDEK of Washington met several times, visiting the site and reviewing concepts that would help create a realistic experience for visitors.
To make the floor look like dirt, SUNDEK of Washington carefully considered the colors, textures, and shadows. After reviewing several samples, the team ultimately decided on SUNDEK’s SunStone. To ensure this product would create the right look and feel for the village floor, SUNDEK of Washington’s Bob Miller and Guadalupe Velazquez put together a team to create a sample on the floor at the project site.
SUNDEK prepared the existing floor by grinding it using 25 grit diamonds. To keep this step as dust free as possible, SUNDEK used cyclonic dust evacuation equipment. After preparing the surface, SUNDEK applied the SunStone coating, creating a granular look for the dirt floor. Once it cured, the contractors applied a stain and sealer. Upon getting approval on the sample from the museum’s benefactors, SUNDEK began the complete installation.
For a truly realistic look, the overlay needed to be consistent throughout the room, as joints or bulkheads that you commonly see on poured concrete surfaces would prevent the floor from looking authentic. It was also critical for each five-gallon batch of SunStone to be mixed exactly the same so visitors wouldn’t see abrupt inconsistencies in color. Additionally, as this is an indoor museum, SUNDEK had to bring the materials to the site, unload them, load them onto a freight elevator, and then hand-carry them to the room.
Although the goal wasn’t to create a “perfect” floor, the floor needed to be installed perfectly. Eighteen installation technicians, three mixing technicians, and several supervisors worked together to ensure consistent product and application. Five hand-trowelers, led by Velazques, worked for 10 hours to sculpt the dirt floor.
After the floor was cured, stained, and sealed, it was covered for protection as the final props and lighting were installed. When the surface was revealed, the result was a realistic dirt floor that complemented the hand-sculpted bedrock and limestone walls throughout. And even though the floor has the look of dirt, it is actually very easy to clean and will help up well under constant foot traffic.
Museum of the Bible
409 Third Street SW C-700
Size: 5,100 square feet
Project length: About one month
Jonathan Martin of JMC: Museum Arts, LLC
Cary Summers, former president of Museum of the Bible
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