For those who have ever been to Hoover Dam, it’s almost guaranteed they have seen Oskar J.W. Hansen’s Winged Figures, which has stood for nearly nine decades.
As part of that monument is Hansen’s Star Map, which shows the planetary alignments at the exact moment President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated Hoover Dam in 1935 as well as other significant moments in human history.
But like many monuments, buildings or structures, time is not always an ally. Because of this, the Bureau of Reclamation began a restoration project on both the Winged Figures and Star Map. But that work has been on hold since late last year. This delay has some concerned that the Star Map will not return once restoration resumes.
The result has been the formation of Save the Star Map, which is headed up by Aaron Street, founder of Oskar J.W. Hansen Archives.
“Since launching our Save the Star Map campaign this month, the BOR has offered reassurances that they intend to start work again in the coming months and pledge to complete the Star Map restoration sometime in the future,” Street said last week. “I’m hopeful that this is true, but I’m very concerned at the lack of a specific plan or timeline or any sense of urgency in getting the project restarted.”
He went on to say that the Star Map is the most-photographed terrazzo sculpture in the world. It’s been visited by millions of people each year for almost a century. Yet, between Hoover Dam visitor closures during COVID and now this stalled restoration project, visitors haven’t seen the Star Map since March of 2020 and it’s not clear when anyone will see it again.
“The Star Map is an important artistic masterpiece, but also an integral part of Hoover Dam,” Street said. “It is important to a huge number of people that the responsible parties in charge of its preservation and maintenance act responsibly to restart the restoration project soon and get things back on track.”
In a recent email to the Review, BOR spokesman Doug Hendrix said work on the project to restore the Monument Plaza continues.
“Restoration of the statues and 142-foot flagpole is done, and the engineering design to improve the drainage of the terrazzo surface surrounding statues is complete,” he wrote. “Reclamation anticipates the work will resume in the coming months. The monument is a National Historic Landmark and Reclamation is committed to responsibly restoring all of its elements. We look forward to reopening the plaza when the work is done.”
Effort to save Star Map
In written information provided by Street, he said in early 2022, contractors hired by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation began a comprehensive restoration of Hansen’s sculptures. These famous sculptures were installed at Hoover Dam in the 1930s and after years of weather wear were badly in need of repair.
As part of the restoration, Hansen’s famed Winged Figures statues were sandblasted and had a new artificial patina painted on them.
Restoration plans for Hansen’s terrazzo Star Map were more complex and required the complete demolition of the existing terrazzo so a new drainage system could be built underneath, and new terrazzo installed.
He went on to write, “Soon after the Star Map was demolished in the summer of 2022, the project has been indefinitely stalled due to unexpected repair needs, leaving the beloved monument absent from the public eye and its future uncertain.”
He added that no meaningful work has been done on the stalled project since last November and it is nearing a full year that Hoover Dam has been without the Star Map. Multiple emails to the government’s project manager have gone unanswered. The contractor hired by the government to run the project has been virtually shut down for the last six months, unable to work on this or any other projects until the government approves a new plan to move forward.
Delays in the project risk that the expert terrazzo artists hired to rebuild the Star Map might no longer be available to complete their work and the Star Map is at risk of additional years of destruction if the project isn’t restarted soon.
To learn more about the Save the Star Map campaign visit www.oskarjwhansen.org.