The renewal of terrazzo in interior architecture: 5 inspiring projects

The renewal of terrazzo in interior architecture: 5 inspiring projects

Since its inauguration in the 1960s, each year more than 10 million tourists visit the Hollywood Walk of Fame in hopes of experiencing the glitz and glamor of Los Angeles’ most famous attraction. To this day, its 18 blocks of terrazzo floors remain in good condition, revealing the longevity and durability of a material capable of withstanding heavy foot traffic over the century.

From Venice to the world

Besides Hollywood, terrazzo can be seen all over the world, from contemporary buildings to antique buildings. Even though its origins can be traced back to ancient Egyptian mosaics, today’s modern form began its history in Venice in the 15th century. Back then, workers would collect discarded marble shavings and mix them with cement, pouring the mixture onto their decks to create a flat, comfortable walking surface – hence the Italian name “terrazzo”.

As the material made its way to the United States, the perfected formula became increasingly popular, making a comeback as one of the key trends in contemporary architecture. Today, Terrazzo & Marble is the world’s leading supplier, manufacturing and distributing high quality interior flooring for over 75 years.

521 West 57th Street.  Image courtesy of Terrazzo & Marble
521 West 57th Street. Image courtesy of Terrazzo & Marble

Ingredients

Terrazzo is a composite material that mixes shavings of marble, granite, quartz, and other crushed minerals called aggregates, making up 70% of the mix. To prevent fractures and ensure long-term strength, cement or epoxy resin is added as a binder. For unique custom designs, architects can use metallic divider bands for color transitions, intricate designs, or logo artwork. The design possibilities are endless.

Once the components are defined, the mixture is poured into place and polished to a smooth, even surface, creating a glossy or matte finish. Although it is commonly installed in floors, it can be applied to almost any surface, vertical or horizontal.

A selection of unique applications

Below are the benefits of terrazzo, showcased with 5 remarkable terrazzo and marble projects.

Sustainability and Lifespan: Hamad / HOK International Airport Passenger Terminal Complex (2014)

Qatar’s iconic large-circulation terminal uses a large terrazzo surface, once again demonstrating its remarkable durability and strength in congested spaces and constant traffic (airports, stadiums, universities, etc.). While other flooring systems require frequent replacement, terrazzo stands the test of time and is therefore cost effective; no wonder the method has been around for centuries.

Hamad / HOK International Airport Passenger Terminal Complex.  Image © Tim Griffith |  HOK
Hamad / HOK International Airport Passenger Terminal Complex. Image © Tim Griffith | HOK

Antibacterial and low maintenance: Lucille Packard / Perkins + Will Hospital (2017)

Located in California, the epoxy terrazzo at Lucille Packard Hospital serves as a canvas for waves and sea creatures, simulating the California coastline. In addition to facilitating the movement of wheelchairs and beds, the seamless floor is easy to maintain, clean and disinfect, critical factors in any healthcare facility. In addition, terrazzo prevents the growth of bacteria, mold or mildew, ensuring a safe environment for patients.

Lucille Packard / Perkins + Will Hospital.  Image © Emily Hagopian
Lucille Packard / Perkins + Will Hospital. Image © Emily Hagopian

Design Flexibility and Endless Colors: Terrazzo in Salesforce Transit Center / Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects (2019)

The Salesforce Transit Center presents an exceptionally complex art installation in terrazzo. Comprised of sixteen colors and 375 brass and zinc elements, the cheerful design features hummingbirds, brass insects and abstract shapes. Terrazzo offers unlimited design and color flexibility, allowing designers and architects to create any imaginable combination of colors, patterns, logos and images.

Terrazzo in Salesforce Transit Center / Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects.  Image © Judith Barath
Terrazzo in Salesforce Transit Center / Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects. Image © Judith Barath

Adaptability: Terrazzo in The Gateway Arch / Copper Robertson & Partners (2019)

As part of the Gateway Arch renovation, the new terrazzo installation required a match with the existing 52,000 square feet of sand-cushioned Venetian terrazzo. The work was particularly difficult, but the material can easily adapt to the change, making the new epoxy color match the existing color perfectly.

Terrazzo in The Gateway Arch / Copper Robertson & Partners.  Image © Nic Lehoux
Terrazzo in The Gateway Arch / Copper Robertson & Partners. Image © Nic Lehoux

Sustainable development: Apple Store Fifth Avenue / Foster and Partners (2019)

The Apple Store on Fifth Avenue in New York City uses elegant white terrazzo floors that bounce natural light into the room, in an effort to provide an engaging customer experience. The surface discreetly incorporates an intelligent ventilation system that responds to occupancy levels and weather conditions, thus optimizing energy consumption. Other sustainable solutions provided by Terrazzo & Marble include: zero emission of volatile organic content (VOCs) to improve air quality, use of recycled aggregates and minimized transport costs through its on-site application.

Apple Store Fifth Avenue / Foster and partners.  Image © Aaron Hargreaves / Foster + Partners FOLLOW
Apple Store Fifth Avenue / Foster and partners. Image © Aaron Hargreaves / Foster + Partners FOLLOW

For more unique terrazzo applications, check out this link.



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