In the atrium of the Museum, you will likely look skywards. The stunning glass façade will draw your attention. The monolithic zinc slabs of the oculus may also catch your eye. Beneath you, however, is the Museum’s terrazzo flooring—somewhat more understated than its atrium design counterparts, but equally fascinating.
Terrazzo is a material made of chunks of granite, marble, or quartz. These components are bound by a polymer or cement and polished. This results in asymmetric spots in the final product. Even if the name is foreign to you, you have seen terrazzo before. It has been used as a notable architecture element in the United States since the early 20th century. It’s found in prominent places like the Hollywood Walk of Fame and George Washington’s home, Mt. Vernon, and in everyday places like the Louisville International Airport.
But its history goes back much further than that. The Italian word “terrazzo” translates to “terrace.” More than 1500 years ago, Venetian workers would use remnant marble chips for terraces around their own homes. We are all about reusing and repurposing leftover materials today. But back then, they didn’t realize they had created the first eco-friendly flooring. And the first terrazzo sealer? Goat’s milk!
Although terrazzo is traditionally used in architecture, its pattern has become popular in its own right. Replacing your floors might seem a little drastic, so we’ve pulled together some fun, accessible ways to incorporate this material into your world.
- Terrazzo turquoise pattern shower curtain by Sylvain Combe
- Terrazzo iPhone case from Gallery No. 5 on Etsy
- Terrazzo tray from Madewell
- Digital terrazzo wallpaper from West Elm
This post was put together by Carl Sukow, communications intern and student at Davidson College.