After over three decades at the National Geographic Society (NGS) Headquarters in Washington, DC, Elyn Zimmerman’s iconic ‘Sudama’ sculpture was unveiled at American University (AU). At the dedication ceremony on April 4, 2023, the rock-and-water sculptural art installation was celebrated at its new location on the terrace of the University’s Katzen Arts Center. The artwork, formally known as Marabar, was gifted to the university by the NGS and now offers an on-campus interactive art experience.
Global engineering, architecture, design and consulting firm, EXP, worked with landscape architecture, urban design and land planning partner Lee and Associates (LAI) and structural engineer Silman on the project. EXP provided civil engineering services for the project. Creating the new home for ‘Sudama’ included grading and layout of the site, designing the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, LED lighting and supporting the construction of a fountain and the installation of Zimmerman’s iconic five large granite boulders and accent rocks, weighing 450,000 pounds in total.
“The removal, construction of the pool and reinstallation of Elyn Zimmerman’s artwork was an incredibly memorable opportunity for the entire team,” said EXP’s Director of Design Cerasela Cristei. “This was an opportunity for engineers to assume the perspective of an artist. We traditionally would be focused on routing and conveying the rainwater, the smooth grading of the site and the general flow of the layout for pedestrians. Elyn inspired our team to assess varying perspectives of the pedestrians approaching the sculpture, and as a result trees and light poles were strategically located to enhance the visitor experience,” she continued.
The complex project required careful consideration and seamless coordination with partners National Geographic Society, American University, the District Department of Transportation and Elyn Zimmerman to achieve the transformative vision for the sculpture. The harmonization between engineering and design brought the piece to its new home. “Lee and Associates is honored and proud to have led the talented design team on this successful collaboration to seamlessly integrate this iconic sculptural masterpiece into the main entrance gateway to the university. We believe it will inspire the future generations of students, visitors and the community,” said Founding Principal Jeff Lee.
The construction of this project has been ongoing since September 2022. The boulders were moved four miles from their location at NGS Headquarters to their final location along Massachusetts Ave. “I am very proud of this project, as it was a unique opportunity to partner with NGS, AU and our dear colleagues at LAI to preserve a public masterpiece by Elyn Zimmerman and welcome it to its new home at the American University campus,” shared Vice President Amir Ahmadzadeh at the dedication ceremony.
EXP is proud to support the appreciation and preservation of art and was honored to join the community in welcoming the sculpture to American University’s campus.
EXP and LAI at Sudama’s Dedication Ceremony on April 4, 2023
Sculptor Elyn Zimmerman