Special preview: La Jolla Shores’ Map installation goes on display

Segments of the in-process installation for The Map
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

La Jolla Shores residents and supporters finally got to preview the long-awaited Map educational installation on Oct. 10. The room-sized display featured examples of the LithoMosaic pieces that will contribute to The Map installation in Kellogg Park.

LithoMosaic artists Robin Brailsford and Wick Alexander presented the completed segments and sketches of what will ultimately be a 2,200-square-foot installation. The Map is currently being assembled and stored in the former Scripps Institution of Oceanography Southwest Fisheries Science building, which was decommissioned in 2012.

“This is the largest contiguous LithoMosaic that has ever been made,” Brailsford told La Jolla Light. “It’s an unbelievable, awesome opportunity to be a part of this.”

Using the LithoMosaic process Brailsford invented, small tiles are pieced together to create mosaics of the marine life found at sea off the coast of La Jolla Shores and birds. The educational display uses various shades of blue to represent the different ocean depths. In total, almost 450,000 tiles make up the entire installation. The plan is to have The Map installed in March 2019.

Segments of the in-process map installation Ashley Mackin-Solomon

The original Map was created in 2008 using tiny colored beads and bronze fish secured into the ground using the sealant Lithocrete. However, the Lithocrete cracked and the beads began to unearth soon after the installation. The Map had to be closed to the public in 2012.

Friends of La Jolla Shores sued the installer, TB Penick, in 2013. The suit was withdrawn after an agreement was struck. The wait since then has been to get the San Diego Department of Park & Rec and the California Coastal Commission to agree to the terms set by the two parties.

Once that happened, Brailsford was contracted to carry out the work, and got started in January 2018.

She started building the mosaics of the smaller fish in her Del Cerro studio, but soon realized the studio was too small for the project. It was then moved to the Southwest Fisheries building, where it has been worked on ever since.

“We are now telling the full (biological) story that was not being told before, because the selection of fish that were represented with bronze was limited because in bronze, there are limits as to how large the fish could be. Conversely, the limitation with LithMosaic is how small we can go. Therefore, what’s not depicted are the very tiny creatures that live at the bottom of the deep canyons because we can’t articulate them in mosaic. But there are twice the number of fish the old one had, and include predators that weren’t there before,” Brailsford explained.

She added there are also interpretations of scientific drawings drafted by famed oceanographer Walter Munk in 1947 of the waves hitting the shores and refracting back.

Brailsford estimates there is another two or three months needed to complete The Map, and will take four to six weeks to install. She is further constrained by the summer beach moratorium, which starts Memorial Day (May 27) 2019, during which no work can be done at the beach.

Friends of La Jolla Shores president Mary Coakley-Munk predicts The Map will be in place by March 2019. Once assembled and in place, it will be safe and durable and can be walked on without crumbling.

“LithoMosaics has been in existence for 12-15 years, we have 50 projects all over the country including Alaska, Nevada, and Florida in every type of weather you can imagine. It’s concrete with the aggregates in a pattern. So everywhere you can have concrete and everything you can expect concrete to do, you can expect LithMosiac to do,” she said.

Clockwise from left: LithoMosiac artists Robin Brailsford and Wick Alexander, and funders Friends of La Jolla Shores president Mary Coakley Munk and Walter Munk of the Walter Munk Foundation for the oceans Ashley Mackin-Solomon

“We couldn’t be more fortunate to have Robin and Wick working on this. They are the best and we felt that since the community had contributed and supported the initial Map so strongly, it needed to be replaced with something even better. I think we are going to get that,” Coakley Munk said

Coakley Munk has been spearheading this project from the beginning, and besides “oh my god,” couldn’t find the words for how she felt about seeing it coming to fruition.

“The best part is that we’re working with scuba divers, with Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Birch Aquarium education department,” she said. “Just like with the original Map, the reason it was a success was that everyone who had an interest in the ocean contributed to the project and we want this to be the same.”

The price tag is $275,000 and will be funded jointly by Friends of La Jolla Shores and the newly formed Walter Munk Foundation for the Oceans. Coakley-Munk later explained the Foundation is “a non-profit that we have just started for funding projects, or young scientists’ projects, to help them in the future.”

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