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Jonathan Smith

Ode to the Roadcut

Posted by on 4/15/13 at 07:41am

Roadcut n. A cut through a hill or mountain for the purposes of building infrastructure through it, rather than over it.

I’m not the only member of my family fascinated by roadcuts. On family car trips growing up, my father would stop at roadcuts to scour them for fossils. Sometimes he would successfully return to the car with multi-million year old sea urchins or shark teeth; other times only with disappointment that the formation he was seeking had disappeared under the asphalt at the preceding mile marker. 

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I have always been enamored by the appearance and physical attributes of the roadcut. They are an advanced lesson in texture, scale, rhythm and shade and shadow. They are are varied as they are beautiful, some are shear as if they were laid just last week by skillful masons, while others crumble as if to escape from traffic towards a new angle of repose.

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My favorites tend to exhibit varying horizontal strata in fluctuating course heights of deviating hardness that are eroding over time at different rates. There is something comforting and peaceful in their solidity, weight and slow decay.

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When I started at Lake Flato I found that I was surrounded by others who like me were also taken by the roadcut. The simple roadcut shows up commonly as design inspiration early in our process & can be seen carefully re-imagined in many of the firms stone walls. I don’t know that we will ever outdo the simple roadcut with one of our walls but I like that we continue to learn from what they have to teach us.

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