The Pavement Under Our Feet

The last few days have seen posts on pavement in different parts of the world, as well as on the importance of rethinking how we tend to cover parking lots with asphalt.

But while Provo and other parts of the West tend to see a lot of concrete and asphalt, those are by no means the only types of paving materials in Provo. Below, I’ve included some examples demonstrating that people in Provo are already thinking creatively about how to pave their spaces. Hopefully these examples will help us think about the potential benefits of different types of paving materials.

This European-style cobbling is one of my favorite examples in Provo. It’s a small and easy-to-overlook strip, but it’s far more interesting than ordinary concrete.

This driveway on 9th East is paved entirely in brick. I assume that this is a lot more expensive, but that’s sort of the point: it looks so much better that it presumably costs more.

Unlike the brick in the picture above, this appears to be more of a paving masonry product. Still, I think it looks great; it’s more interesting that any other driveway in the surrounding area and, significantly, adapts to tree roots. In other words, this brick could be easily removed or altered as that tree grows or is cut down. Concrete, on the other hand, would require a jackhammer.

When brick won’t work for whatever reason, asphalt can be stamped and painted to look like brick. I tend to frown on building materials ā€” fake wood siding, for example ā€” masquerading as something they aren’t. But in this case, the stamped asphalt breaks up the otherwise monotonous street and visually delineates, and therefore protects, pedestrian space. Of course, eventually the paint wears off and exposes the surface for what it really is.

Here, near the new bike rack, the sidewalk is broken up by a swooping design and other patterns created with brick like material.

This picture comes from Laura’s recent trip to Denver. As it was explained to me, the sidewalk here is paved with stone. The stone apparently matches the nearby homes, which are from the early 20th century. The inference, then, is that this stone sidewalk is quite old. By contrast, I was told that the nearby sidewalks that are made out of concrete have deteriorated more rapidly and need to be fixed or replaced far more frequently. If true, the stone-concrete comparison demonstrates the relatively common phenomenon wherein a larger up front investment actually saves money over the long run.

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