Orlando, FL

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Swimming with the dolphins and other marine life used to be an experience that only few could ever experience in their lifetime. Through the imaginative wonder of Sea World and Bush Entertainment however, swimming alongside the gentle creatures of the sea is no longer such an idealistic desire – it has become a reality. Just as impressive, and perhaps even more beautiful to some, the artwork throughout the park offers visitors a true depiction of paradise. Creative head, Ralph Young, supported by Houston Winn and Jim Spencer of Reptile Design implimented the mosaic art that made the amazing park come to life. The tile installation materials of choice: MAPEI KER 200 and ULTRA/COLOR grouts and MAPEI KER 121 polymer-modified thin set mortar.

Colorful mosaic tile depicting life-like images of the tropics surrounds each area of the park with such intense beauty that one is left wondering where they’ve stepped foot. Everywhere you look, the tile comes to life in circles and curls, imitating the playful waves of the sea. In the Administration Building for example, approximately 800 square feet of mosaic resembling a "whoosh" of water swirl in a mix of colors. "The floor in the Administration Building is a combination of two colors of slate mixed, porcelain tiles which were broken and smoothed on-site," explains Ralph Young adding that Dal-Tile Kolorines vitreous glass 1" mosaics were chosen for the ‘watery’ accents. 14 rinse columns, that at first seem like majestic pillars with their combination of red and orange hues, provide daring swimmers a chance to wash up. Snack bars, consisting of a counter face composed of a watery image, reminisce of a paradise island somewhere in the tropics. The list continues on to the restaurant, signs, pottery, and bathrooms; everywhere you look you are greeted with an amazing work of mosaic art.

Of course, the work behind the project was a challenging one since the very beginning. "The combination of the materials and their range of thickness and porosity made this part of the project particularly difficult, " explained Mr. Young. The installation took place in December and January of 1999/2000 when workers were faced with low temperatures (low 30’s and high 60’s) and rainy days. Thirty people worked simultaneously to mix and apply both the setting material and grout for the 7,500 square foot project. Due to the intense nature of the project, only quality materials could be used. With the help of the general tile contractor, Nehemias Rivera, Reptile Design worked on installing the floor and convinced the general contractor, Suitt Construction, to use MAPEI’s KER 200 Series Grout instead of the Epoxy grout specified for the job due to its inherent stability. Both the grouts and the mortar were distributed by Summitville Orlando Inc. in Florida. Despite the size and complicated nature of the project, MAPEI’s KER 200 series grout worked perfectly, "It filled the varying widths and depths of joints (1/8" up to 11/2") and has not failed in any way to date. Portions of the floor extend outside the front and rear doors of the building, and were grouted on rainy, cold days. These areas have also proved to be trouble-free," confirmed Ralph Young.Mr. Young also experienced good results with MAPEI’s ULTRA/COLOR Series H.C.T. grout. "This product is a good alternative for use when epoxy is impractical," he states, "There is no other like product, to my knowledge, that is as hard and impervious after curing. It does not slump on vertical surfaces, and seems to bond well to any of the variety of materials I use in my custom mosaics." These materials include porcelain, glass, and ceramic tiles of all kinds, handmade mosaic pieces, steel, shell, etc.

The large slate, limestone and QTC tile floor was part of the architect’s (Peckham, Gayton, Albers , and Viets, Inc. of St. Louis, Missouri) scope as well as the ‘rinse columns’ and fifteen pots and planters found throughout the park. The remainder and majority of mosaic work was in the designer’s (Suzanne Sessions, Inc of St. Louis, Missouri) scope. Approximately 80 percent of fabrication of the mosaics was done in Reptile’s studio in Orlando with a fabrication crew of up to 10 people.

Once at Discovery Cove visitors will experience wonders that they will share time and time again. In their stories there will no doubt be a tremendous tribute to the beauty of the park itself. Thanks to the collaborative efforts between Reptile Design, designer Susan Price, Architect John Kasman, and the exceptional quality of MAPEI products, "discovering the cove" to any visitor will undoubtedly be the experience of a lifetime.

For more information on this project or for a brochure depicting the construction of the Discovery Cove, contact Diana Chiodi at MAPEI at 954-246-8556. Ralph Young Designs by Reptile can be reached at 305-726-7038. For more information on MAPEI’s line of technologically advanced installation materials, call their technical service line at 1-800-992-6273.

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