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Topiary mascot designed to enhance student center

A new bull welcomed back students and faculty in front of the Marshall Student Center (MSC) this semester.

The green mascot is actually a new larger-than-life plant statue, or topiary, which faces Holly Drive.

“The topiary bull is not part of the Marshall Center project. I’ve been working on this project for many years, and the (grass bull) really never was part of the project until the project was completed,” said Marshall Student Center Director Joe Synovec. “The University had elected to build a topiary bull on the campus many months ago. It was being made all of these months and we didn’t even know about it.”

President Judy Genshaft felt the perfect place for the topiary would be in front of the new facility, Synovec said.

The topiary was designed by William Robertson, who has done work for Walt Disney World and Busch Gardens.

“(Robertson) designs and manufactures gallery sculptures, architectural sculptures, topiaries and specialized projects for major attractions, hotels, museums and private collections,” said Assistant Vice President of Facilities Management Joe Eagan.

The topiary is made from a steel structure bull and even includes horns and eyes.

The double-walled galvanized steel structure weighs about 1,000 pounds and has more than 3,000 welds. The horns and eyes are made from a concrete polymer mix, Eagan said. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) netting was used for the skin and certain areas of the inner wall to hold the moss. The plant plugs were then individually inserted into the moss layer and arranged to create the shape of the bull.

The bull’s construction also included some unconventional items. For instance, more than 2,400 zip ties were used to install the plants and keep them in place, as well as 29 pounds of hairpins.

Maintenance and upkeep of the topiary will be minimal and handled by the Physical Plant Grounds Department.

“Maintaining the topiary will consist of watering, trimming, fertilizing, fungus spray and periodic spot-replacement of the Ficus pumila, which is the outer greenery,” Eagan said. “The structure itself has an internal irrigation system, though that will be supplemented by hand-watering as it insures total coverage and decreases overall water use.”

The annual cost is not expected to be high, since the maintenance materials are used in other garden areas on campus, Eagan said.

“The cost for the bull was around $27,000,” Eagan said. “The funding for this project was from an account stipulated for facilities enhancement and allocated prior to the recent economic downturn.”

While the topiary bull is not part of the enhanced MSC complex, there are three other statues included in the redesign.

“We are building this fountain and we are going to have three life-sized bull statues running through the water,” Synovec said. “Those were the bulls that were always part of our project.”

Synovec said the three life-size statues will be made by a company that works with Disney and other amusement parks around the world.

“(The statues are) actually going to be made of concrete, but it’s painted,” Synovec said. “There is a bronze metallic material put in the paint, so when you look at the bull it looks likes a bronze sculpture although it’s really made of concrete.”

The three statues will cost approximately $134,600, Synovec said.