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Landmark Commission to Review ‘Chain Reaction’ Testing

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Lookout Staff

April 13, 2015 -- City Landmark Commission members Tuesday will review guidelines for testing the safety of Santa Monica’s historic “Chain Reaction” sculpture.

An analysis to determine the structural integrity of former L.A. Times cartoonist Paul Conrad’s creation began earlier this month, but Landmark Commissioners at their meeting Tuesday will review and approve specific conditions for how the testing will be carried out.

Because it received a City landmark designation in 2012, the 26-foot-tall sculpture must be restored according to landmark standards (“Santa Monica’s ‘Chain Reaction’ Will Stay, Says City Council,”  February 26, 2014.)

Earlier this month, a conservator and a structural engineer began designing special scaffolding to get a better look into the sculpture’s interior, particularly its mushroom cloud dome.

Created by Conrad in the shape of an A-bomb blast, “Chain Reaction” is supported by a steel frame substructure encased in a fiberglass mold. The mold is covered with hundreds of copper chain links welded together and affixed to the fiberglass with screws and wire.

But some of the supporting fasteners are missing, are not fully imbedded, or are showing signs of corrosion, according to a previous City analysis of the sculpture.

The conditions outlined by the Landmark Commission’s staff seek to make the testing as least invasive as possible.

“Only the minimum amount of chain links for adequate access shall be ‘disturbed’ (not necessarily removed) for purposes of allowing for the additional structural testing,” according to the conditions.

“Removal of the chain links shall be avoided except to the extent necessary to perform the inspection of the structural integrity without moving the sculpture’s cap.”

The conservator also will be required to document all the alterations to the sculpture and prepare a written report for the Landmarks Commission “upon completion of Phase II testing,” including recommendations for “further stabilizing of the landmark sculpture.”

Commission members also are asking for an update on the progress of the testing in three months.

Conrad donated the piece to the City in 1991, but it began showing signs of wear and tear in 2010. City Council members had been set to return the sculpture to Conrad’s family or an art institution of the family’s choosing.

“Chain Reaction” got a reprieve in March 2012 when the Council voted to give its supporters more time to raise money for repairs. (“Santa Monica’s Begins Assessing ‘Chain Reaction,” April 3, 2015.)

To pay for the repair work, Save Chain Reaction, led by David Conrad, the artist’s son, raised more than $100,000.

In February, the City Council voted to pay for the rest of the repair work, which could cost as much as $423,000.

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