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ASU grad combines art, construction skills to help honor fallen firefighters

close-up of firefighter memorial

The Arizona Fallen Firefighters & Emergency Paramedics Memorial features life-size sculptures depicting various firefighting-related professions. Photo by Nora Skrodenis/ASU

November 19, 2015

A recently completed memorial dedicated to those who gave their lives fighting fires in Arizona owes some of its visually striking elegance and structural stability to the construction and artistic talents of an Arizona State University graduate.

Joshua Marriott had studied art and architecture in college before coming to ASU and earning a degree in 2012 in construction management — with a concentration in concrete industry management — in the Del E. Webb School of Construction.

The school is part of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Marriott’s performance at the university helped him land a job with the Phoenix-based Southwest division of the McCarthy Building Companies, one of the largest building contractors in the country.

The company called on him to help with the contribution of its services to building the Arizona Fallen Firefighters & Emergency Paramedics Memorial on the Wesley Bolin Plaza on the Arizona State Capitol grounds in Phoenix.

The memorial was officially dedicated in October during an annual ceremony to honor Arizona firefighters.

Concrete artistry

Marriott helped with some of the design and cost estimating for the project, and took the lead on creating and crafting one of the key features of the memorial: a circular concrete slab about 25 feet in diameter with an engraved representation of the Maltese Cross, an international symbol of firefighters’ commitment to risk their lives to protect others from the dangers of fire.

The acid-etched engraving project gave Marriott the largest canvas he has yet had to display his expertise in both the technical and aesthetic aspects of concrete construction.

In what has become part hobby, part side-business, Marriott has for years been producing small works of “concrete art” — coasters, trophies, nameplates, award plaques and medallions.

James Ernzen, an associate professor in ASU’s construction school, “was the one who first who pushed me into doing some artistic stuff,” Marriott said.

Among things Ernzen had him produce was a three-foot concrete pitchfork representing the one carried by the ASU Sun Devil mascot, Sparky. It is now on display in the construction school’s concrete research lab.

Prize-winning ASU project

Ernzen also came up with the assignment that would prove to be valuable preparation for Marriott’s role in building the firefighters memorial.

About three years ago he had student teams compete to do concepts for the design of a decorative concrete slab to be installed on the plaza of the Engineering Center building on ASU’s Tempe campus.

The design by Marriott’s team won out — and later a mockup of the installation earned a prize in the Art of Concrete student competition at the 2012 American Concrete Institute convention.

He then led the team in producing a 200-square-foot circular concrete slab emblazoned with the ASU and Fulton Schools of Engineering logos.

Other images acid-etched into slab and stained in ASU’s school colors of maroon and gold depicted tools and technology used in construction engineering, along with an inspirational quote from the engineering schools’ namesake, Ira Fulton.

Marriott said at the time that he was especially excited to have had the opportunity to “create something beautiful that can have a long life here on the ASU campus.”

portrait of ASU alum Joshua Marriott

Joshua Marriott graduated from ASU in 2012 with a degree in construction management. He now works for McCarthy Building Companies, one of the largest building contractors in the country. Photo by Nora Skrodenis/ASU

Memorial construction a team endeavor

His involvement in the firefighter’s memorial project, he said, has been an even more exhilarating experience.

“It has taken a big group of people working together to overcome a lot of the complexities and challenges, from the planning and design and project management and construction, to lobbying the Legislature and raising corporate and private donations and coordinating events,” he said. “It’s been an education to see it all come together.”

Along with the McCarthy companies and the SmithGroupJJR architecture firm, about 30 other companies and subcontractors have contributed services.

Marriott is chairman of the Arizona Builders Alliance community service board. Through industry connections he has made in that role, he was able to help recruit some of the diverse types of construction subcontractors needed to handle various facets of the memorial project.

Joe Brunsman, a project director with McCarthy and a 1990 graduate of ASU’s Del E. Webb School of Construction, has been the memorial project’s director of operations.

“It has been exciting to watch the memorial being built. It is so unique compared to what we typically do that the construction process has been both challenging and educational,” Brunsman said. “It’s been a privilege to be a part of the team building something to honor the memories of these great men and women.”

Recognition of sacrifice

centerpiece of a new memorial to fallen Arizona firefighters

The large round decorative concrete slab featuring an engraved Maltese Cross designed and etched by Arizona State University alumnus Joshua Marriott is a centerpiece of a new memorial to fallen Arizona firefighters. Photo by Nora Skrodenis/ASU

Marriott said the project “has been an amazing leadership opportunity, and working with the firefighter groups has been awesome. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.”

Along with the decorative slab he fashioned, the memorial, which covers about 2,500 square feet, features a 30-foot-high bell tower with a custom-made brass bell.

A long, tapered circular solid concrete wall clad in a black granite veneer is engraved with the names of more than 100 Arizona wildland firefighters, paramedics, volunteers and professional firefighters who have died in the line of duty, dating back to 1902.

Ten life-size bronze sculptures placed atop the wall depict various firefighting-related professions.

Trees will be planted around the memorial structure to help give the site a peaceful and relatively secluded ambiance.

“I really liked being able to combine some artistry with such a creative, high-quality construction project,” Marriott said. “But what really makes me feel good about this is being able to do something for people who are very deserving of this recognition of their sacrifice.”

Learn more about the Arizona Fallen Firefighters & Emergency Paramedics Memorial.

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