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National Geographic – Marabar Boulder Relocation

In 1984, the acclaimed artist Elyn Zimmerman designed and supervised a modernist landscape granite boulder fountain for the central courtyard of the National Geographic Society headquarters building in downtown Washington, DC. The boulders were hand-selected at the quarry for their shape and then cut to straddle the reflecting pool basin, with down-turned legs which dive into the water basin. The Carnelian granite was then quarried, shaped using wire saw cuts on the boulders, and polished and delivered by Cold Spring Granite. This task was very complicated, and much of the work was done at the actual quarry due to the massive and irregular size of the boulders.

In 2021 the DC Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) issued a resolution that allowed the National Geographic Society to relocate the fountain four miles away at American University. This resolution allowed the NGS to complete plans to infill their courtyard for a large building expansion. In late 2021, Rugo Stone was interviewed and later selected as the firm responsible for the excavation, rigging, crane sizing, and transporting to a vacant park at the American University opposite the Katzen Art Center, another award-winning project Rugo completed years ago.

Rugo developed extensive crane rigging plans to carefully remove the boulders and relocate them to a new landscape pool basin at the American University. Rugo team also performed 3D scanning of all the boulders, developed as-built drawings, and performed volumetric calculations to document the footprint of the boulders as well as to aid the design team in overlaying the footprint of the boulders in the new location. The team at Rugo applied all their engineering, rigging, and experience with heavy piece picking to remove these massive boulders, some of them weighing as heavy as 65,000 lbs.

Working closely with Ms. Zimmerman, Rugo successfully removed all seven massive boulders and installed them in the new fountain at the American University without any damage or incident. The new fountain also features new Carnelian granite pool aprons manufactured by Cold Spring and installed by Rugo. Rugo also performed all the detailed boulder conservation, which included cleaning soils and biological growth, repairing old quarry lifting holes with new Carnelian Dutchmen, and repolishing the boulder surfaces that had always been polished but had become dull over the years.

This project is an excellent example of repurposing an acclaimed landscape art piece and truly professional rigging and stone masonry skills. Rugo Stone regularly performs safe and efficient custom rigging projects, and this is yet another example of our skilled stone masonry staff’s ability to perform expert work on even the most challenging projects.

Location: Washington, DC
Completion Date: 2023
Owner:  National Geographic Society
Architect: Elyn Zimmerman Studio
General Contractor: Jame G. Davis Construction
Size: N/A
Services Performed: Design Consultation, Rigging, Relocation and Installation

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