With virtually unlimited design options and color palette, and the ability to form intricate and unique strip designs, terrazzo can be as visually impactful as it is practical. In recent years, new developments with cement pigments, epoxies and acrylics have continued to make terrazzo ever more cost-effective, high functioning and versatile. The spectrum of colors is now unlimited.
With virtually unlimited design options and color palette, and the ability to form intricate and unique strip designs, terrazzo can be as visually impactful as it is practical. For example, hospitals can incorporate directional guides into flooring design to help guide patients, staff, and visitors to appropriate places within the facility. Children’s hospitals can utilize terrazzo to feature bright colors and playful images that appeal to their young patients. Today’s terrazzo is an environmentally friendly medium that provides optimum durability, design flexibility, and low maintenance.
Terrazzo as a medium for art in public places turns a floor into a destination, where people go just to see it and walk on it.
~ Joan Henrik
Henrik is the designer and hands-on construction team member for Winds & Currents, an award-winning terrazzo floor in the new Duluth, MN, Entertainment Convention Center. “A floor can become a focal point in the building, like a sculpture you can walk on,” said Henrik. “Terrazzo as an art form is like a different kind of paintbrush.”
Artist Linda Beaumont has been working with terrazzo on public art projects for over 10 years. “Terrazzo is a fantastic medium for the built environment, and such a great match for artists working in civic spaces,” Beaumont, of Seattle, explained. “I turn the public space into my studio.”
For artist Teresa Cox, designer of Glacial Twist, another terrazzo floor in the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, creating a memorable space is always the goal in designing public places. “Public art is a chance to recognize the value and power of spaces,” she explained. Even in large spaces, the partnership of terrazzo and public art can create “an intimate, meaningful, beautiful and profound experience,” she said.
Bringing together terrazzo with public art gives the artist the capacity to create spaces distinctive from “anytown-anywhere,” she said, colored by local character and highly accessible to the public.
Not Just for Floor Anymore:
Though terrazzo’s reputation was built as a durable, low-maintenance, earth friendly flooring, its repertory as an artistic medium now extends to actual three-dimensional sculpture. Beached at the train tracks near the Pacific at Mukiltea Sounder Station in Renton, WA, are two 27-foot-long, solid concrete-core terrazzo earth canoes representing those of the area’s native inhabitants. One of Beaumont’s latest projects, the canoes are adorned with seashells, clear and colored glass, semiprecious stones and mother of pearl. Pictorial murals also join the list of recent award-winning Art in Public Places projects in terrazzo. In Detroit’s Harmonie Park/Paradise Valley, an outdoor installation of rustic terrazzo, designed by noted muralist Hubert Massey, pays homage to local musicians, historic buildings and public figures. The project also showcases the creative potential and durability of the medium.
Designing with terrazzo is like painting a picture in stone.
~ Hubert Massey
Tales in Terrazzo
“Paintings can be precious, but public art should meet people half way,” stated Cox. “The advantage of terrazzo as an artistic medium is that it can be walked on and touched. It’s meant to be physically experienced,” she explained. “If it’s a well-designed space, it impacts people,” Cox added. “People can reflect and slow down in a well-designed space.”
Whatever form it takes, art set in terrazzo extends an invitation to the public to take pride in the stories, legends and symbols of the locale, its geography and peoples, as told by their artists and craftsmen. “Creating terrazzo art is almost like using 21st century glyphs— objects or images that tell the stories,” Massey noted. He likes knowing that in 100 or 300n years, the terrazzo and its even older natural aggregates will still be around telling the histories he has set down in stone. “What better medium than something as organic as that?” he asked.
Massey’s artistry in the terrazzo medium lends itself well to the storytelling function of public art. Along with his narrative of Detroit’s history in his Harmonie Park/Paradise Valley mural, the city’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History also boasts a terrazzo floor designedby Massey. Entitled “Genealogy” and 72 feet in diameter, the floor recounts the African American experience throughout history. “If they tore down the building, they’d save the floor, because it has a major function: to tell the history,” Massey declared.