Visitors approaching Yale University's Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven, CT, are now greeted by a striking figure on the building's east side - a life-sized bronze Torosaurus statue, created by Peabody Museum Preparator Michael Anderson and a team of paleontologists, zoologists, artists and volunteers. The 21-foot statue sits atop a 95-ton base of Stony Creek granite, and the stone's raw and distinguished form was sculpted through a combination of natural geology and the resourcefulness of sculptor Darrell Petit.
â€œ[The Peabody Museum staff] approached me with a 12-inch-high Styrofoam model of what they wanted for the base element and asked if it would be possible. They were looking for a large triangular shape that protruded out dramatically like a ship's prow,â€ Petit explained. â€œI wanted to first see if the form existed within the quarry formation and if we could attain it by quarrying around it. It took one year to find the spot in the Level 7 sector of the quarry that would yield the right shape. The original model was more of a simple geometric wedge. We quickly educated Michael Anderson in the creative possibilities within the quarry process itself, and then we proceeded to go for it.â€
Extracting the stoneFrom the beginning, one of the goals for the project was to retain the raw natural beauty of freshly excavated granite of the base, and to make sure it would not appear as a manufactured, processed pedestal. â€œIt is a sculpture composed of two elements - the dinosaur and the sublime force of nature,â€ Petit said. â€œWe didn't want to tame one to be subservient to the other.â€
The only element of the base that reveals human intervention is the back, which faces the small strip of land between the statue and the museum itself. â€œWe knew that it would accommodate a plaque, so we used a wire saw and then had it sandblasted,â€ he said.
Transport and assemblyThe three pieces of the base were fitted with 4-inch-thick steel lifting lugs, and they were lifted using a 250-ton crane. Each piece was lifted on three points, and each of the points could be moved independently - similar to the way a â€œSicilian string puppetâ€ is maneuvered from above, Petit explained. â€œWe needed to be able to maneuver this way because each piece had to fit perfectly; every convex or concave angle of each piece needed to fit with the angle on the connecting piece. Marino Crane was instrumental in rigging and moving the three elements, and they also got involved in the engineering. We really wanted to save the natural form of the stone, and we didn't want the edges damaged. Marino Crane utilized a three-dimensional modeling program to ascertain the center of gravity of each element and to determine the exact picking points so pieces could be picked.â€
Once at the site, a major concern was spreading the load properly, and the site had to be prepared to accommodate the weight of the statue and base, since there was infrastructure underneath.