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Nancy Napier: When I see a building going up, I wonder

If you’ve had children or puppies, you know how they seem to change daily, right in front of you. I could almost feel the growing bones of our Lab and, of course, I could see the results in how much more she wanted to eat every week.

The wonder of watching something grow and come into its own happens every time I see construction. I’ll admit, I’m completely naïve and usually oblivious about new buildings and how they go up. I apologize right up front for my lack of understanding and even the language to use to talk about this. But since I’ve worked in our own piece of construction magic, the still-quite-new College of Business and Economics building, I have been looking at cranes, cables, tunnels and structures Downtown with wonder, for two reasons.

First, the little bits of the process I can see fascinate me. A few months ago, I watched two men (I assume they were men, but then maybe that’s wrong?) spread concrete on the edges of the top of the bus tunnel the Gardner Co. is building next to the U.S. Bank building. They seemed to work with care, swishing their tools back and forth almost like synchronized swimmers scull their hands in the water. It looked like a piece of art. The process and result made me look forward to using that tunnel. I hope the care they took means the tunnel will be safe and have the stamp of individuals who did a job well.

Second, I also have “building wonder” because I’m curious about the people who do the work. They do their jobs in public view, in front of people who don’t know them but who trust them to get it right.

So who are these invisible heroes? And how do all of those jobs fit together? What sorts of problems do they encounter, and how do they use creativity (or do they?) to solve them?

The questions are infinite, maybe because I’m so curious. How does a person get interested in operating a crane that sits 30 stories above ground? Does he (or she) listen to rap music to stay focused or talk to a buddy on the ground? Is it cold or super hot in that cab (again, sorry, what’s it even called)? And what happens if it gets foggy?

Then there are the guys who guide the cables below and the ones who move heaps of ground and metal. What keeps them all coming to work every day, other than what I hope is good pay? What do they joke about, what is the culture they live in and how do they switch from their construction culture to their other worlds, as fathers, husbands or friends?

For me, “building wonder” is twofold. I have wonder for and of the building itself. And I thank the people who work on a structure for building wonder in me as I watch them make the magic happen. What a good template it could be for other work as well.

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