Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fixed By Hand with the Materials At Hand.

Joe Mitchell who works with me quite often, exclaimed yesterday "Man we redo nice work!" We laughed. I noticed he posted his comment on facebook that evening.

We were doing a small repair on an installation that members of the Dry Stone Wall Association of Canada had built last year in a municipal park in Port Hope, Ontario. It was a dry stone sitting-area around an historic memorial dedicated to Joseph Scriven. A circular enclosure had been created around the monument to bring more attention to the fact that it was there, commemorating the famous hymn writer's accomplishments and the fact that he lived in Port Hope, Ontario. That we merely 'redid' a section of this very nice looking circular wall, (which had been purposely damaged the week before) made the statement 'Man we redo nice work' seem like a harmless, yet still very poignant comment. In fact, it was absolutely fitting for what we had done (or rather, redone) but the more I thought about it, the more the significance of this remark struck me.

For sure, this was not a slogan that you would want to have printed on your business cards or your truck. And I don't think we need to confuse people by telling those who ask us, that we never advertise for work, because most of it is 'repeat business' (even though apart from referrals, it's absolutely true). Our 'repeat work' of course is for clients who want us to do more nice work, not keep fixing things we've built badly, but in this case it was a good honest repair needing to be done on a vandalized section of well built wall, and it was done at no cost to the town. I wonder how many other things in the park get fixed at no cost to the town?

But I digress. The fact that a construction company comes back to fix what they do, seems like the kind of thing they wouldn't necessarily want to advertise. Most people dont want to think about, or have anything to do with the idea of something needing any maintenance. That's why municipalities love concrete.

But concrete fails too. And often it has to be redone or sawn out at great cost when there has been damage or changes needed to be made, or more often than you would think, when it has been poured in the wrong place. We built a dry stone wall next to a parking lot being built where we saw a municipal construction crew working for weeks surveying and forming and pouring concrete curbs that all had to all be painstakingly jack-hammered out afterwards and redone, because it was all built to the wrong grade specifications. When concrete has to be torn out or fixed it usually isn't what you would call redoing 'nice' work.

As we unceremoniously rebuilt the section of dry stonewall at the Scriven monument, the mayor and a council member came over and watched us. They just happened to be there to be filmed by a TV crew doing a news segment about the new playground that had been recently installed in the park. I sensed they only saw that our 'wall' needed fixing, not that it was getting repaired without delay, without any fuss or bother, without ordering in expensive replacement parts or materials, and all of this done without having to take a lot of damaged material away to the dump; which is where the old busted steel, wood and concrete from the previous playground had probably been trucked off to.

A public school playground in Ambleside, Cumbria UK
enclosed on all sides by a free-standing (easily repairable) dry stone wall.

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