You carefully touch the sharp crusts, snapped off in an unconvincing even pattern, brittle, dangerous, demonstrating when stones become aggregate and for effect, the look of it, just lovely, the concrete edge of a huge building at ground level for nudging. The pebbles give strength to the dull grey syrup mass, manufactured offsite and assembled here, following the plans passed down from architect to second architect to construction manager just like this, precise vertical lines of edges, edge on, look what we can do with this stuff, nice detailing Jason. Chiselled and snapped, wear goggles at all times and marvel at the so regular organic edge, while the perpendicular symmetry tones it down more than a shade. Stone colours highlight in the monotonic grey mix of seeming super-strength with the fifty year only guarantee before the cracks appear, so the concealed steel frames do the holding. Metal and concrete make the perfect marriage of construction, hold and fill. It’s out of fashion and time fixed now, decoration to the exterior of a place holding thousands of soft volumes for page turning, to become ignored through familiarity.
You stand there in the wind trying to commune with this massive structure of achievement, fingers outstretched, bloodletting a short step away, hurt me and I’ll kick back and blunt my foot. Your fingers are soft and fleshy, no longer hardened by the rough work that sits and fits here now. You lean in and roll them across and between the interspaces, interstices of safety. Punch this right here and you’ll end up in hospital. You feel the pain more inside than out, the alienation, the scale, a temple without gods of meaning, a mosque without prayer, a signature building to enhance careers, a folly of ambition that comes down to this: you can’t even touch it. And the wind gusts in channels blocked and shaped, weather systems defined by arrogant unforgiving architecture.
You lean into the wind. You hear pebble voices resentful of being reduced to aggregate, a collective cluster of unanimity, like me, like you, a good size sorted and sifted for this particular mix, B3071, punch in the numbers and the machines will do the rest. Trevor explains because you asked, and he’s a technical expert on the manufacture of concrete, not to be confused with cement, as if. It’s a Colchester family business, D.B. Concrete, Dave Baxter, Don Bradshaw, Di Bassett, de-brief. He reveals the acronym and we immediately forget, seduced by this nerdish powerhouse, you can ask him anything. It’s a special day for Jonathan and this is how he wants to spend it, on this visit. They keep it local and with a higher margin than the multinationals next door. Special attention and Trevor’s knowledge fill the gap. He keeps on going, the Romans invented it and some of theirs is still hardening; the bag of sugar in the back of the truck to throw in if there’s a traffic delay and stop it setting before arrival. But then it’s sugar-wrecked and Pete, if it is Pete or maybe Jin Soo, has to drive back and disgorge the spoiled load onto the waste pile over there. Can’t do much with that, becoming hardcore at best. The drum turns continually behind his cab. It’s mixing it up on the move, turning at the right speed, rotating, wheels turn, drum spins, north south, east west, at the SAME TIME. The stones, the aggregate, are t-treated like illegal immigrants trapped in the back waiting for air and dispersal. The fluid state, a chemical process of hardening, reaches a near climax in heat, give it a day, another day, from submission to complete resistance, solid state to walk on. It pours out in a s-steady stream, filling crane buckets and trenches, guided by the site workers who’ve seen it all before, saving their banter with Jin Soo, the driver, the carrier, the medium, until he’s ready to return to the base of D.B for another load.