As recent tile exhibitions around the world have shown, terrazzo is enjoying something of a revival or, at least, terrazzo-effect floor tiles are becoming more and more popular.
However, the real thing is still a sought-after surface finish. This is hardly surprising. Terrazzo has been used as a decorative and durable flooring since the days of the Roman Empire. Over two thousand years later, it maintains its reputation for durability, ease of maintenance, aesthetics and performance.
Basically, terrazzo is a composite of natural marble chips, and/or other durable aggregates, set in a cementitious matrix with colour pigments added. Chips may be chosen from a wide range of colours and sizes; how they are set results in unique patterns and light/shadow effects. Once the matrix has been poured in place, the surface is ground and polished. This fully exposes the aggregate colours and overall composition. Glass chips, and even seashells, can be used: terrazzo is very, very versatile.
One amazing example of modern terrazzo creativity can be seen at Pittsburgh International Airport. Artist Clayton Merrell came up with Sky Beneath Our Feet, a 69,000 sq. ft custom terrazzo mural installation that features iconic Pittsburgh landscapes bordering a blue sky that swirls through the centre of the airport’s floor.
The terrazzo floor was installed by Roman Mosaic and Tile of Westchester, Pennsylvania. Operations Manager, Doug Wilczek, skilfully managed the entire installation process while airport’s daily operations continued, virtually uninterrupted.
Creative Edge Master Shop acted as fabricator for all artistic floor elements. This meant furnishing the metal dividers for all the Pittsburgh landmark images, and providing an innovative layout system that transferred Merrell’s original images to the floor.
Jim Belilove of Creative Edge says: “One of our mandates was to ensure that the artist’s vision was not compromised by practical issues and demanding schedules.”
To achieve this, Creative Edge used the TerrazzoTek waterjet technique to fabricate the metal terrazzo divider systems, which represented those iconic Pittsburgh landmark buildings, bridges and furnaces.
Creative Edge’s Transformz system was used to transfer the artist’s designs accurately to the expansive floor. Intricately stencilled patterns marked the clouds, contrails and aircraft to deliver this spectacular public flooring artwork.
Sky Beneath Our Feet spans the central core of the terminal and includes silhouettes from five Pittsburg neighbourhoods: The North Shore with its stadiums and the Carnegie Science Center; Oakland with the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and Phipps Conservatory; South Side including the Smithfield Street Bridge and Duquesne Incline; Downtown as seen from the Ohio River; and Homestead and the historic Carrie Furnace.
The Clayton Merrell designed terrazzo floor formed part of the airport’s $10 million renovation project, which includes a number of high-end fashion stores and chic eateries.
A new post by Joe Simpson, Diary of a Tile Addict, April 2017.