There are days where I just really have to wonder how I got to be so lucky! I mean, one day I’m in Africa building a rainwater harvesting system for a remote village school to have drinking water, next thing you know I’m at the Navy Pier in Chicago collaborating on the signature water feature for the Pond Stars’ Flower & Garden Show with some of my best friends, now I’m in Colombia, South America working on a Multi Million Dollar Water Feature! Nobody pinch me because I’m LOVING this dream!!
INSPIRATION IS EVERYWHERE IN COLOMBIA
As a water feature artist or someone that just loves the beauty of nature, Colombia has some of the most inspiring landscapes you could imagine. Our ride from Bogota Airport to our project base in Villavicencio was about 3 hours, mostly through mountain passes that featured bridges spanning cavernous ravines, coupled with breath-taking, cascading waterfalls that seemed to start all the way up in the stratosphere!
PRIMAVERA URBANA – A VISIONARY FAMILY BRINGS THE RAINFOREST TO THE CITY
I have been invited, along with an extremely talented team of Certified Aquascape Contractors (CAC), to help Aquascape Inc realize the dreams of the Manrique Family from Villavicencio, Colombia at their brand new Primavera Urbana Shopping Center. They are the visionaries that are building this environmentally minded shopping center, where the most important aspect of the experience is the feeling of having the rainforest that surrounds them transported in for the city to enjoy.
The Manrique’s were introduced to Aquascape through the Nat Geo Wild program “Pond Stars”, which featured Greg Wittstock, Ed Beaulieu, Brian Helfrich and Chris Hanson as they traveled the U.S. building inspiring, natural looking water features. After flying to Chicago to meet with Ed about wanting massive, one-of-a-kind water features at their brand new location, like they would find in the foothills of the Andes Mountains that surrounded their city, they decided that Aquascape had the talent and ability necessary to pull off these monumental signature water features.
I have worked with Brian, Ed and Chris on several large projects, so our familiarity with each other will help on a massive undertaking like this. On this trip we also have my good friend, who I have also collaborated with on many occasions, BJ Linger from BJL Aquascapes in Colts Neck, New Jersey. Also joining us are extremely talented guys, Joey Genovese from Genoscape Inc in Canada and John Adams from Modern Design Aquascaping in Tennessee. Conveniently, we have all been recipients of the award “Water Feature Artist of the Year”, so that doesn’t hurt when you have an All-Star team :)
1,500 TONS IN 2 WEEKS!
If there was one thing that stood out to us when we arrived on-site it was the massive boulders that were staged around the job-site as far as the eye could see! We’re talking rocks that weigh up to 12 Tons (24,000 lbs) each! Then there was the steep hillside that went from the sidewalk up to the face of the building. I think my calves grew twice as big walking up and down that hill all day while carrying huge straps and a 45 lb shackle to rig each of the giant boulders we were setting with the excavators!
There is a symbiotic relationship that forms on each of the waterfall crews. The guys setting the rocks and shaping the waterfall would motion hand signals to their counterparts at the rock pile, simulating the size of boulders to be strapped for the excavator to send down. It was a well-choreographed game of charades which netted us 1,500 Tons of boulders set in just a 2 week time frame! Simply Amazing!
People crowded the street and sidewalk directly in front of our work zone and It felt as if we were on display as an elaborate exposition of artists using excavators as a paintbrush and boulders as our paint, molding our earthen canvas into a cascading masterpiece that had been inspired directly by the amazing aquatic treasures that flow down the surrounding mountainsides. They would watch in amazement as we furiously carved and shaped the soil in preparation for each colossal monolith of stone. It was truly inspiring!
This was our first 2 week tour for this multi-month project and I can honestly say that time actually flew by with the pace that we kept for the duration. We were very happy with the progress up to this point and we are dizzy with anticipation for our return in January to continue this incredible journey!
PREPARING FOR OUR RETURN
If there’s 1 thing I’ve realized after 41 years, it’s that the universe is not going to stand in the way of anyone getting what they want in life. In fact, it will simply step to the side and say “go ahead kid, I’m not stopping you”. It’s almost like water in that it will just form right around you and keep going. Since nothing is holding me (or anyone for that matter) back from achieving our wildest dreams, I’m not stopping here! Wherever this journey takes me to effuse my craft and change landscapes (and sometimes lives!), I welcome the challenges and experiences with much excitement and promise! I’m truly blessed to be on this adventure and we’ll see you in January!
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