Each new project offers Ralph Gasser a new opportunity for creativity. This time, he created stencil patterns, used crumpled aluminum foil as a texturing tool, and doubled countertop formliner nosing as edges for a wheelchair ramp and a bathroom backsplash. The 20,000-square-foot project converted five buildings of a shopping center into 11 theaters, a lobby, a lounge, and a game room, as well as hallways, restrooms, and an outdoor ticket booth.
Buy your ticket at an outside counter then line up inside at the 25-foot-long concession stand that feels like polished granite. As cast-in-place concrete that used a formliner from Brickform, the countertop was chemically stained and ground to a honed finish with 50- to 800-grit diamond pads. Gasser hand carved the vein lines on the counter, textured them with crumpled aluminum foil, and added color hardener for emphasis. His process was similar for the bathroom countertops and backsplashes. Afterwards, Gasser highlighted the countertops and the facings beneath with Plate-al—a resin epoxy mixed with metallic powder. He sprayed the concrete with an automotive primer and when dry, brushed on the metallic mix. After curing for five hours, Gasser polished the concrete to a coppery glint. The outside ticket counter's vertical face was precast concrete, stained, and diamond polished. Gasser cut that slab into stone size pieces before mounting them with adhesive and grouting them into place.
Standing in the lobby, you see a camera and a reel of film unfolding on the floor. The floor's ¼-inch white overlay from Concrete Solutions was chemically stained with combinations of Antique Amber, Fern Green, and Weathered Bronze—all L.M. Scofield stains that were used throughout the project. Modello Designs manufactured Gasser's custom patterns for the camera and film. He placed the patterns across the floor to mask the surface and troweled on a colored grout to detail the design. The same process created the two “tickets” found in the game room. Gasser stamped the game room floor with Brickform's textured mat, Sierra Seamless, originally made by Gasser as a Shasta Seamless texture mat. Stained to become an artistic centerpiece, one of the “tickets” was placed over a structural crack that was deliberately widened.
Walk up the curved 28-foot-wide staircase to the next level and reach the lounge, hallways, and theaters. This entire floor required elevation and seating at varous levels. Gasser used polystyrene to build elevation and then pumped onto the raised floors five inches of concrete reinforced with #3 rebars on 12-inch centers. Gasser used a stone textured formliner to build the staircase. After it was chemically stained, he carved horizontal and vertical lines on the treads with a generator-powered weasel, simulating “stones.”
A theater lends itself naturally to ornamentation. “Ken Hill, who's the owner, discovered that there was a great opportunity with concrete after I made samples for him. And without an architect on the project, they just let me run wild,” says Gasser.