Shimmering Concrete

Manipulating light adds movement to concrete

Publication date: July 19, 2007

By Laurie Banyay and Ted Worthington

Gander Mountain Stores, left, Lustrous Mold master, center, & Sears Centre Elevator Tower, right

"It's human nature to be attracted to light and movement," says Tom Schrunk, a Minnesota-based artist who manipulates how light reflects off materials, including wood, brushed metal, and, most recently, concrete. He does this by using the interplay between light and shadow. By positioning the decorative elements at various angles, the surface seems to shimmer and even move as the light changes or and the viewer moves. The surface shimmers and seems to move in the interplay between light and shadow.

Schrunk achieves this look in concrete by using textured formliners with intricate designs and deep relief. His system is so advanced, in fact, that "if somebody wants to specify it to the extent of it having the best presentation at 2:30 in the afternoon when approaching from the east, I can design for that," he says.

A recent example of his technique was seen at the Artistry in Decorative Concrete demonstrations at the World of Concrete 2006, where he teamed up with decorative concrete contractor Tom Lockwood.

They used self-consolidating concrete, which eliminates air pockets and bugholes to produce a smoother surface that is necessary to bring out the more intricate designs. But, SCC isn't the only option. Schrunk can achieve this effect using standard concrete mixes or concrete reinforced with glass fibers, though the finer the texture and pattern on the formliner often requires smaller aggregate to get a clean concrete surface. "The objective is to have people notice the light, not the concrete; to see the artistic imagery, not the mechanical process. The smaller you can make the grooves and the mechanical parts, the less the eye is drawn to them, and the more you enjoy the art for art's sake," says Schrunk.

To date, Schrunk's system has been used mainly for commercial projects. For example, Schrunk used an agricultural design of a wheat stock, with deep ridges to cover a 10,000 sq. ft. vertical face on the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Ill., in 2006.

Logos are increasing in popularity, too. Sporting goods store Gander Mountain contracted Schrunk to render their logo. The design alters in appearance while walking past, and also with the movement of the sun throughout the day. Various DOTs have expressed interest using Schrunk's work for retaining walls. London has received samples and may be considering it for buildings at the 2012 Olympics.

For more information on Schrunk's process or to contact him, visit To see a farm scene that Schrunk and Tom Lockwood created at the Artistry in Decorative Concrete 2006, see below [Photo by Oscar Einzig].

Las Vegas
Tom Lockwood, left, Tom Schrunk, right