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What does it take to preserve an entire year of man-made memories underground for the next 100 years? When SAIT instructor Greg Ball was first asked to design SAIT’s 2016 time capsule, he didn’t know the answer. After 10 years in the industry, the environmental designer had conceived lamp posts, bus shelters and large pieces of public art, but never a time capsule.
“What got me excited right away was that there was a blank canvas,” Ball says. “No one knew what the time capsule was going to look like or what material it should be. For me, that’s the fun — trying to find the solution.”
Ball was part of a committee of experts from the School of Construction, the School of Manufacturing and Automation, and across SAIT who collaborated on every aspect, from the design, construction and placement of the capsule to the framework necessary to keep its contents intact.
It started with an idea and almost 100 drawings in Ball’s sketchbook. It ended with something special — once-in-a-lifetime, even.
On June 5, 2017, the time capsule was interred next to Heritage Hall’s main entrance. Sealed in a concrete bunker built to withstand flooding, extreme weather and time, it is topped with a granite plinth, a steel sphere and a message to whoever opens it on Oct. 16, 2116. Until then, Ball gives LINK an exclusive glimpse into the innovation behind this legacy of SAIT’s centennial.
01 – 30″ DIAMETER POLISHED 304L STAINLESS STEEL SPHERE
“When you look at it, you see your image. That was part of SAIT’s centennial — looking in the mirror and thinking, ‘What are we now? What will we be in the future?’“
02 – 26″ DEBOSSED GRAPHIC SHOWING THE CATALYST ELEMENT OF SAIT’S LOGO
“A sandblaster was used to apply this design to the sphere. As I planned the sphere, I researched ‘death ray’ architecture, where light reflected from buildings and public art melts things. Luckily, the sphere won’t do that because it’s convex.”
03 – 1″ DIAMETER THREADED ROD AND RUBBER MEMBRANE
“The rod fastens the sphere to the stone plinth. You can tow a trailer with a threaded rod like that. It’s serious. The rubber membrane allows for movement because, over time, snow and ice might get between the sphere and plinth and could push and pull.”
04 – 48″ BY 48″ SQUARE GRANITE PLINTH WITH ¾” CHAMFERED EDGE
“The plinth weighs 2,700 pounds. It’s engraved with a message to the Class of 2116. I spent a lot of time making sure the letters are large enough. There’s an ergonomic factor to how people see and they shouldn’t have to walk right up to the plinth and kneel down to read the message.
“I like how the plinth and the sphere reflect campus architecture. There are concrete spheres on the north, east and west sides of Stan Grad Centre, and the plinth matches granite used in Heritage Hall.”
05 – 30″ DIAMETER STEEL MANHOLE COVER AND LID WITH 2″ OVERLAP
06 – 60″ SQUARE CONCRETE SLAB WITH REBAR AND 12″ CONCRETE APRON
07 – CONCRETE SLAB AND FOUNDATION COMPLETE WITH REBAR AND WATERPROOF COATING
“All 3.5 cubic metres of concrete in this slab meet exposure class C-1, minimum 35 MPa, maximum 19 millimetre aggregate. Plus, 500 feet of 15 mm rebar is used to reinforce the concrete structure.”
08 – 23″ DIAMETER BY 31″ HIGH STAINLESS STEEL TIME CAPSULE
“The time capsule is made of 304 stainless steel grade with No. 4 Brushed Finish. Inside is a sealed polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, lining that holds the artifacts. PVC pipe is designed to be used underground, remain watertight and hold nitrogen, which are all necessary to preserve the capsule’s contents.
“PVC caps were attached to each end, using a primer and contact cement. A valve attached to each cap was used to complete a nitrogen purging process after the capsule was sealed, removing oxygen to prevent oxidation of the archival materials. Silica gel desiccants were also placed inside to absorb any rogue moisture.
“All together the capsule, contents and pipe weigh 209 pounds. My colleague Jim Fehr (SMP ’80) designed a metal frame around the PVC pipe to absorb the weight when it’s lifted out of the ground in 100 years. Otherwise, the lid would bend or even pull off.”
09 – EYE HOOK
“This is used to lift and carry the time capsule. It is one of my favorite details. It’s like a piece of jewelry — a shiny, gold, beautiful thing.”
10 – SAIT LOGO CAST IN BRASS
“A really nice gift has a beautiful wrapping to it. We imagined that in 100 years, the time capsule will sit in a room and people will be gathering around it taking pictures.”
11 – 30″ DIAMETER STAINLESS STEEL SLEEVE CAST INTO CONCRETE SLAB
“It’s like layers of skin. Each layer helps to protect what’s inside.”
12 – STEEL ROD SCREEN
”This elevates the time capsule off the ground to protect it from moisture.”
13 – OPEN SPACE
14 – DRAINAGE HOLE WITH ONE-WAY CHECK VALVE BELOW
“These one-way valves are used in home basements to stop sewage backups. That’s how design works — use an idea that’s worked somewhere else.”
15 – 1.5 CUBIC METRE BASE OF COMPACTED GRAVEL
16 – 6-FOOT EXCAVATED HOLE
“I drew what our committee thought the structure should be and then consulted with a structural engineer. The engineer basically doubled the size of everything and added rebar throughout the cement foundation. It’s built exactly like a bridge foundation would be.”
Text by Ashley Naud | Illustration by Greg Ball