CCIS Terrazzo Installation

November 17, 2009

Update (Sept. 29, 2011): View photos of the finished floor at

I am currently at work on installing a nearly 40,000 sq. ft. terrazzo floor for the University of Alberta in Edmonton. The design is a collaboration with the ONPA and Flad Architectural design team for the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Sciences. The principal organizing element I have utilized for the floor design is to treat the surface with overlapping and interwoven imagery to visually bring together the multiple fields of inquiry: Integrated Earth and Landscape Management, Nanostructures and New Materials, Resource Geosciences, Chemical Biology and Proteomics, Planetary Dynamics, and Physics. To accomplish this, I began by searching out what we share in common. Art, like science, shares a deeply rooted bond in an emotional, if not spiritual, sense of awe, and artists, like scientists, often begin their work from careful observation. The world is full of expression and gesture if we remain receptive to the unexpected, the overlooked, or the forgotten. Walking across this floor should offer a sense of journey and discovery, like education itself. I would like for people to come, think, sit, and wonder—bridging their ideas and thoughts to what it is they have come here to study and what they see in the floor, combing what Loren Eiseley describes as the Immense Journey, one to the interior of the human mind.

What follows are a series of images of the terrazzo installation process underway. The terrazzo work is being performed by Franklin Terrazzo and ANTEX Western; PCL is the General Contractor. Final completion of the work will be the winter of 2010-11.

The first step is to clear any loose concrete with shotblasting (blastracking) and mitigate any cracking in the concrete subfloor with a crack suppression system.

Isolation membrane

Then the entire floor is coated with a flexible membrane that will allow the terrazzo to float over the concrete subfloor.

The design is printed out at one-hundred percent actual size and laid across the floor.

Then the design is cut into the membrane with a cutting wheel on a grinder.

Prefabricated strip

Any complex strip areas are pre-fabricated on mesh, the rest is cut and bent in place.

Brass and zinc divider strip are attached to the floor with tacks or hot glue.

All joints are either soldered or brazed.

Then the strip is glued to the floor with epoxy, here is a detail of the strip work.

Final adjustments are made to the divider strip before the epoxy is completely set-up.

The epoxy resin is mixed (from parts A and B).

Stone chips, recycled windshield glass, mine byproducts, etc. are mixed into the epoxy.

The epoxy matrix is spread across the membrane with a trowel.

This is what the epoxy looks like in its rough form before grinding and polishing.

The epoxy is ground smooth with diamonds or carborundum and plastic disks progressively from 25 to 400 grit.

During the grinding stage, an epoxy grout is applied to remove any pinholes.

An entire section after a second grout coat.

Applying the sealer before the final wax coat and polish.

Here is a section after sealing.

Detail in the North Lecture Theatres. Note the different thicknesses of the divider strip and how that helps to suggest spatial relationships and depth in the floor design. Some strips will be easier to see because of their thickness, others will await discovery under the right lighting conditions and viewing angle.

Finished North Lecture Theatre

And a portion of the finished North Lecture Theatre floor in the late afternoon sun.

Comments (11) | Tags: , | More: News

11 Responses to “CCIS Terrazzo Installation”

  1. Hardcore says:

    Great idea to publish “The making of…” on the website! Makes the art that much more interesting!

  2. R. Melendez says:

    I love it. I appreciate this festive, lively approach to the sciences. I can not stress how much I agree with Hardcore when I say that this published collection of photographs showing the progress of this building is outstanding. Thank you so much.

  3. Terrazzo Fan says:

    Nice job, thanks for posting. Beautiful floor and excellent photos timelining the process.

  4. Amber says:

    Wow! I walk into this building everyday and wonder everyday how much work and thought is put into the making of the details in the floor. Seeing how it came together makes me appreciate it even more. Thanks for posting the pics!

  5. Agent.D says:

    Thanks for posting this “making of” photo sequence. I work in this building, and see this floor everyday. It really is beautiful and I’m astounded by the complexity and detail in the design. Thank-you to the whole team of people who spent an untold number of hours creating this work of art.

  6. Mary says:

    From the first time I saw the floors I thought the work was beautiful. Nothing like walking through a brand new building and seeing that as the primary inspiration!

  7. Shima says:

    I am proud of walking on this floor:X I wish it were made on the roof :)

  8. Jake says:

    The CCIS Terrazzo floor is an excellent component of CSIS. Any chance on getting a map / diagram of the entire installation and perhaps an interpretation of the various elements posted on this site?

  9. Dale Walley says:

    This is both a wonderful educational tool as well as opportunity to explore the possibilities of a terrazzo floor. Thanks for taking the time!!

  10. admin says:

    Thanks Jake, The University of Alberta has a map of the design on their website:

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