La Verne Magazine
"The University of La Verne: A Day in the Life"
Metrorail Rock Art by Stone
by Heather Morales
photography by Melissa A. Collett
Towering above George Stone, ULV art professor, is one of four sculptured
rocks destined for a Los Angeles Metrorail station.
Standing in the yard of Star Iron Works, sculptor George Stone points
and describes each different part of the large rocks that he has been creating
for the last five years. "This one weighs about 42,000 pounds,"
he says "and it's the smallest of the four."
The others are still being built and are piles of steel, rebar and steel
mesh waiting for the cement to be poured.
Stone, assistant professor of art at the University of La Verne, has
created these large rock sculpture formations for the downtown Los Angeles
Metrorail station at Beverly Boulevard and Vermont Avenue, 30 miles from
La Verne. The station will be on the route of the Red Line, scheduled to
open in 1998.
Stone was commissioned by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) through
the Commission for the Metro Arts Program to design the art for the Metro
station. "The MTA sponsored a national competition that developed the
artwork for the stations," says Stone, who was selected by the Commission.
Right now, though, the half complete rocks are sitting in the Star Iron
Works yard waiting to be completed, cut and then transported by truck for
the hour-long trip to the station where they will then become an integrated
part of the design.
The art professor, who works on an 88 percent contract to allow time
for outside art projects, started his third year at the University this
"I teach beginning sculpture, drawing and drawing techniques and
materials,"he says. Along with the beginning art classes, Stone leads
advanced classes in mixed media and art experience.
He says that he works with almost every medium available in his sculptures,
and so it was not difficult for him to create the rocks for the Metro station.
While the sculptures are his own work, Stone worked in conjunction with
an architect to collaborate the artwork with the architecture of the station.
The design and development stage of the project began in 1991.
"It is done way in advance because of all the planning that has
to be done as far as putting a subway station underneath the city,"he
The station itself was started in January 1996. The fabrication of the
art work began in March, and it will be completed in fall 1997.
"It went through many changes from beginning to end. I pushed it
in a lot of different ways until coming to this final solution," says
Stone. He says he would have liked for the original rocks to have stayed
in place. "Initially, at one point in the project, I wanted to leave
some of the real rock that was actually underground, but because of building
codes and seismic issues, [the design] was not structurally strong enough
to support the structure of the station."
Stone says that he and the architect, Anil Berma of Anil Berma and Associates,
ended up working well together.
"When the two parties come together, they're expected to work as
a collaborative team so that the artwork gets integrated and is developed
at the same time as the Metrorail station itself. In some cases here, the
artist's work is very integrated into the station because of the good working
He adds that the working relationship grew to one of strength. "In
the beginning we had a tough time together, but in the end, as the project
developed, we ended up having a good working relationship," says Stone
"What I was interested in was how the architecture interfaces with
the geology. The architects themselves take a very classical approach to
the architecture, and my approach to it was to interrupt the architecture
with representations of the geology that existed beneath the ground,"
The rocks will be placed in the walls and ceiling of the station, 50
feet below the street. "The project that I took was to develop it to
appear as though the rock formations that were already underground were
left intact, and the station was actually being built around them,"
says Stone. "The project is a relationship of how the architecture
functions with the geology of the earth."
He says he got the inspiration for the look and texture of the rocks
on a hike through Topanga Canyon. The design of the rocks also came from
sonar surveys taken of the site.
Stone is no stranger to the Metrorail or even the Metrolink (they are
two different companies). He lives in Los Angeles and sometimes rides the
trains to work at Star Iron Works or the University of La Verne. "It's
just more ecological," says Stone. "I sometimes sit and read,
or I prepare for class while I'm on the train.
"A lot of people take the Metrolink from this area. I live in the
city and work in the suburbs, and most people live in the suburbs and work
in the city," he says about his commute.
Others making the commute in the future will undoubtedly marvel at the
design of the award-winning ULV art professor who designed from steel, rebar
and cement something as natural as a rock and incorporated it into the design
of an underground station for all to view and enjoy.
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