Drawing the Line: Concrete Pavers That Advance Architectural Design

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By Jenny Xie / Published by Dwell
Presented by Stepstone, Inc.
Stepstone’s diverse collection of Linearity Pavers extend and accentuate the lines that give shape to architectural forms.

Architecture, at its most elemental, depends on the arrangement of lines in space. Whether these lines are the exuberant curves of Frank Gehry or the skeletal frameworks of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, they fundamentally shape the structure and the landscape around it. It is precisely this building block of design that Stepstone embodies with its collection of precast concrete Linearity Pavers. After 40 years of leading the industry, the Los Angeles–based company is bringing it back to the basics by manufacturing pavers that help express the original vision of architects, landscape architects, and designers.

Drawing the Line: Concrete Pavers That Advance Architectural Design - Photo 1 of 7 - "We provide homeowners and architects with the opportunity to find the paver that enhances the shapes of their own projects," says Stepstone owner Gordon McWilliams. "Our products are part of the project environment." Here, Pedestal Set Roof Pavers set the scene for a graphic lounge area at the Micropolitan apartments in Los Angeles, California.

"We provide homeowners and architects with the opportunity to find the paver that enhances the shapes of their own projects," says Stepstone owner Gordon McWilliams. "Our products are part of the project environment." Here, Pedestal Set Roof Pavers set the scene for a graphic lounge area at the Micropolitan apartments in Los Angeles, California.

Linearity—the line that characterizes a project, and the line that gives shape to Stepstone’s pavers—is a concept realized by the company’s owner, Gordon McWilliams. "It’s a word that allows us to draw ourselves more closely to what the architect is trying to accomplish," he explains. An Air Force veteran with a talent for sales and marketing, McWilliams took over Stepstone in 1976 after having proved his chops in the industry. Over the years, he’s grown the workforce from 6 to 160 employees and expanded it to three locations. 

Drawing the Line: Concrete Pavers That Advance Architectural Design - Photo 2 of 7 - A private residence in Stanford, California, enjoys a varied patio landscape with Large Scale CalArc Pavers.

A private residence in Stanford, California, enjoys a varied patio landscape with Large Scale CalArc Pavers.

Throughout its history, Stepstone has been dedicated to offering a rich product line that speaks to the varied needs of its customers—developing its own molds, providing unique finishes and sizes, and continually producing new products in the paver, stair tread, pool coping, and wall cap categories.

Drawing the Line: Concrete Pavers That Advance Architectural Design - Photo 3 of 7 - Stepstone developed the Narrow Modular Pavers with landscape architect Peter Walker, who requested them for the Stanford University campus. After adjusting the production process to accommodate the new shape, McWilliams was "amazed at how well the pavers fit into the design of the buildings."  

Stepstone developed the Narrow Modular Pavers with landscape architect Peter Walker, who requested them for the Stanford University campus. After adjusting the production process to accommodate the new shape, McWilliams was "amazed at how well the pavers fit into the design of the buildings."  

Drawing the Line: Concrete Pavers That Advance Architectural Design - Photo 4 of 7 - A commercial space in San Mateo, California, boasts Large Scale CalArc Pavers that echo the structural lines of the aluminum- and glass-clad building. 

A commercial space in San Mateo, California, boasts Large Scale CalArc Pavers that echo the structural lines of the aluminum- and glass-clad building. 

Stepstone nurtures its relationships with architects, designers, engineers, building suppliers, and homeowners for insight into their evolving needs, which in turn sparks innovation. For example, collaborations with renowned landscape architect Peter Walker led to the development of the Narrow Modular Paver, an elongated brick, for the Stanford University Campus, and the undulating Wave Paver for the Colorado Esplanade in Santa Monica, California. "Building architects and landscape architects coordinate their designs to complement each other and tell a story in some way," says McWilliams. "So, we’ve created pavers where the line is very important, that are both attractive to the setting and strong enough to do the job."

Drawing the Line: Concrete Pavers That Advance Architectural Design - Photo 5 of 7 - The Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Salem, North Carolina, makes use of Wave Pavers to add an oceanic movement to the otherwise grid-like lines of the building.

The Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Salem, North Carolina, makes use of Wave Pavers to add an oceanic movement to the otherwise grid-like lines of the building.

Drawing the Line: Concrete Pavers That Advance Architectural Design - Photo 6 of 7 - Large Scale CalArc Pavers in alternating colors liven up a private residence. Stepstone tackles both residential and commercial projects through a handmade production process that handles runs of all sizes.

Large Scale CalArc Pavers in alternating colors liven up a private residence. Stepstone tackles both residential and commercial projects through a handmade production process that handles runs of all sizes.

Lisa Kruger, sales and marketing analyst at Stepstone, elaborates, "Over time, technology has allowed us to get more creative with our shapes. It’s also allowed us to enhance our production even though everything is made and finished by hand. The whole idea behind Linearity is to emphasize musicality and poetry."

Drawing the Line: Concrete Pavers That Advance Architectural Design - Photo 7 of 7 - Hexagonal Pavers glisten in a drought-tolerant garden, creating a stunning contrast against the turf.

Hexagonal Pavers glisten in a drought-tolerant garden, creating a stunning contrast against the turf.

And while concrete pavers and musicality are not often associated, Stepstone does bring a level of craftsmanship and virtuosity that expands the possibilities of landscaping. In fact, talking about his conception of Linearity Pavers, McWilliams muses, "It was time for me to write a song."

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