Civic Beauty Without Permission

It wasn’t long before Tony and I were standing on San Jose’s Santa Clara Street, cars whizzing by, looking at a vintage concrete bridge. Its sides were tiled. In some places, the tile had been broken off, vandalized. Each panel featured colorful, original designs. The work, obviously, had required thousands of hours. But it wasn’t finished and now stood in benign neglect. What happened here? I asked Tony. “It was Rick Hawes,” he said. “I want to meet this guy,” I told Tony. If a man had decided to just start tiling a bridge in the middle of San Jose without bothering to file for a permit, without seeing a commissioner, without lobbying the board –well, that would be a pure act of…of what? — unauthorized civic improvement?

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