This was an interesting project for a number of reasons. Just as everyone is now discovering there's money to be made in producing decorative concrete, casino management and owners realized there was money to be made as a result of decorative concrete assets. The themed concrete paving at The Forum Shops was an integral part of branding and of creating a sense of place. Maybe not actually Rome, but definitely someplace special that was a long way away from the traditional Vegas. This was the first project where I was extensively involved in developing and telling a story with my concrete. Broad strokes were important, as were details. The road paving is slightly crowned. The gutters are slightly concave. It was important to feel these things!
What is your evaluation of the Forum Shops floors today as we walk across them?
It still takes me someplace other than Vegas. I think a patina of age is a beautiful thing. It's best to design projects with the knowledge that they will eventually wear and to build the opportunity for graceful wear into the design. As an applied patina stain is replaced with an actual patina of wear and age, this is as it should be. I think the way the original Forum Shops has aged, when allowed to age naturally, is great. Where they tried to spruce it up (around The Festival Fountain, for example) by faux painting is hideous.
Reflecting back on your career as well as many of your colleagues, what if any changes do you foresee to the industry and what does the future hold for Mike Miller?
I am less excited by the technical possibilities and more excited by the venue that concrete provides. Our philosophy is to view concrete as a canvas of opportunities rather than limitations. Don't get too caught up in joints and cracks and minor spalling and other types of variegation. These things are just like the texture of the weave in fabric. Be more concerned with establishing a dialogue with the slab (or wall) and see where it leads.
Also, remember to take advantage of working at a construction scale. Don't be so concerned with creating a trophy that's hung on a wall for forced review. You have the opportunity to create a piece of art, an experience, that can be explored. Just like a walk through the woods or through the garden. Different things will be noticed on different days from different approaches. Work on creating pieces of depth — like an iceberg, with more beneath the surface than above.
Bob Harris is the founder and president of the Decorative Concrete Institute, Douglasville, Ga., which provides hands-on training in architectural concrete. He has personally placed or supervised the placement of more than 3 million sq. ft. of decorative concrete and is the author of a best-selling series of decorative concrete books. For more information, call (877) DCI-8080 or visit www.decorativeconcreteinstitute.com.