Just north of Chicago, the continent of Africa suddenly took form in a small Evanston playlot for tots. Renaissance Decorative Concrete of Libertyville, Ill., was called on to frame, place, stamp, sandblast, and color the 40×37-foot concrete map.

Scale was of utmost importance. In order to obtain the greatest accuracy, workers spent almost 4 days following a detailed plan to set up a string grid on 4-foot centers, and then framed the continent using Masonite (bendable) forms.

They then placed Brickform integrally colored concrete with control joints doubling for the equator, the Tropic of Cancer, and the Tropic of Capricorn. Brick-form color hardeners were used—muted green for the tropical areas and cream beige for the desert. Workers used slate-skin stamps for texture and an autumn brown release agent. The area was sealed with a Tamms 300 Lustre Seal.

After a week of curing, workers placed stencils in order to sandblast six major rivers, three lakes, a compass, mountains, and a number of words into the map. They lightly sandblasted the Sahara Desert to lighten the color but retain the texture.

As a final accent, all words, lakes and rivers were painted with CemCoat, a cementitious coating that bonds to cement and is very UV-resistant. Two coats of sealer completed the project.

Since then, Evanston has added playground equipment that extends the animal theme and uses the latest safety technology.

This may be the closest many of Evanston's citizens ever come to the “cradle of civilization,” but now they will have a greater understanding of Africa's geography.

For more information contact Renaissance Decorative Concrete at 847-606-1180.


  • Owner: City of Evanston, Ill.
  • Project Manager: Stefanie Levine, City of Evanston
  • Architect: Wolff Clements and Associates
  • Contractor: Pinel Andrews Construction, Evanston
  • Subcontractor: Renaissance Concrete, Libertyville, Ill.