Change Agents

    By David Smith, ICPI Technical Director

    There are four things that change people: books read, people met, beauty and pain. Sometimes two, three, or four of these converge on a person’s experience at the same time, and that often accelerates changes, hopefully in a positive rather than a negative direction. What have you read that crystallized or changed your thinking, beliefs and behaviors? What people have you met that brought inspiration, direction, or just simple and salty advice that you followed? What beauty have you seen in other people or provided it to others, as well as seen it in nature or in the built environment? What pain has wounded or purged you? Many of these change agents arrive when we least expect them, or when we are expecting a particular outcome and it turns into something else, and often outside of our control.

    A great part of the segmental concrete paving industry is it creates beauty, intentional or not. In the early 2000s, the Port of Oakland chose 5 million sf of interlocking concrete pavement because a shipper wanted a durable pavement that could accept any type of heavy container handling equipment. Heavy means over eight times the wheel loads of highway trucks. But when you stand in this ocean of pavers covered with shipping containers, it still whispers an industrial beauty.

    Segmental concrete pavement is often selected due to its beauty as well as its practicality. This is the case for winners of the Hardscape North America Project Awards. Beauty is their calling card; their practicality justified the expense. The winners also affirm the top drawer technical capabilities of manufacturers and installation contractors.

    What’s most interesting is that their beauty becomes a place for meeting people, getting to know folks or just being with family. For some projects, they are places to retreat and escape to read a book, even reading one that might change life’s trajectory for the better.

    What’s even more interesting is the larger site context in which each project is found. Several clearly are discovered by surprise by turning a corner and stepping or driving into a designed place. Yes, de-signed places, meaning you don’t need signs or written instructions on how to use and enjoy it. You are not in control, the place you’re in is. Sometimes, designs are so strong that controlling your relation to it and the people there isn’t a priority. That can help make the soul receptive to engage other people, books, beauty and, yes, pain, all of which might yield an epiphany. On behalf of the HNA Awards winners, we are delighted to present places that can be such change agents.