The Revival of Terrazzo in Interior Architecture: 5 Inspiring Projects
Since its inauguration in the 1960s, every year more than 10 million tourists visit the Hollywood Walk of Fame in hopes of experiencing the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles’ most famous attraction. To this day, its 18 blocks of terrazzo floors remain in a good state, revealing the longevity and durability of a material able to withstand heavy foot traffic over the course of the century.
From Venice to the world
Besides Hollywood, terrazzo can be seen all around the world, from contemporary to antique buildings. Even though its origins date all the way back to ancient Egyptian mosaics, today’s modern form began its story in 15th-century Venice. At the time, laborers gathered discarded marble chips and mixed them with cement, pouring the mixture in their terraces to create a flat and 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 lead supplier, manufacturing and distributing high-quality interior flooring for more than 75 years.
Terrazzo is a composite material that blends chips of marble, granite, quartz, and other ground minerals known as aggregates, representing 70% of the mix. To prevent fractures and ensure long-term resistance, cement or epoxy resin is added as a binder. For unique custom patterns, architects can use metallic divider strips for color transitions, intricate designs, or logo artwork. The design possibilities are endless.
Once the components are defined, the mixture is poured in place and polished to a smooth and seamless surface, creating a high gloss 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, the benefits of terrazzo, presented with 5 notable Terrazzo & Marble projects.
Durability and life span: Hamad International Airport Passenger Terminal Complex / HOK (2014)
Qatar’s iconic high-circulation terminal uses a vast terrazzo surface area, demonstrating once again its remarkable durability and strength in crowded spaces with constant traffic (airports, stadiums, universities, etc.). While other flooring systems have to be frequently replaced, terrazzo stands the test of time and is therefore cost-effective; no wonder the method has been around for centuries.
Anti-bacterial and low maintenance: Lucille Packard Hospital / Perkins+Will (2017)
Located in California, the epoxy terrazzo in the Lucille Packard Hospital serves as a canvas for waves and sea creatures, simulating the California Sea Shore. Besides facilitating wheelchair and bed traffic, the seamless floor is easy to maintain, clean and sanitize, crucial factors in any healthcare facility. In addition, terrazzo avoids the growth of bacteria, mold, or mildew, ensuring a safe environment for patients.
Design flexibility and infinite colors: Terrazzo in Salesforce Transit Center / Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects (2019)
The Salesforce Transit Center features an exceptionally intricate art installation in terrazzo. Comprised of sixteen colors and 375 brass and zinc elements, the joyful design depicts 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 pictures.
Adaptability: Terrazzo in The Gateway Arch / Copper Robertson & Partners (2019)
As part of the Gateway Arch renovation, the new terrazzo installation required a match to the 52,000 square feet of existing sand cushion Venetian terrazzo. The job was especially challenging, but the material can easily adapt to change, perfectly matching the new epoxy color to the existing color.
Sustainability: Apple Store Fifth Avenue / Foster and Partners (2019)
New York’s Fifth Avenue Apple Store uses elegant white terrazzo floors that bounce natural light around the room, in an effort to provide an engaging customer experience. The surface discreetly integrates an intelligent ventilation system that responds to levels of occupancy and weather, optimizing energy usage. Other sustainable solutions provided by Terrazzo & Marble include: zero emissions of volatile organic (VOC) content to improve air quality, the use of recycled aggregates, and minimized transportation costs due to its on-site application.
For more unique terrazzo applications, check out this link.