MissPres Architectural Word of the Week: Terrazzo

Time for another MissPres Architectural Word of the Week!  If you want to check out any previous word you can do that here.  As always our example photographs come from the MDAH Historic Resources Database.  This week’s word is along the same vein as our last word, Scagliola.

This week’s word is brought to you by the letter T as defined by William J. Hornung’s  Architectural Drafting:

Terrazzo: (tə-ˈra-(ˌ)zō) A combination of marble chips and cement, used in floor construction, ground and polished to a high finish.

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While Terrazzo likely derives its name in part from Tessera (which is the small marble, glass, or tile piece used in mosaics), Terrazzo construction and its appearance are more inline with the 18th century Italian technique “Paviemento alla Veneziana” which literally translates to “Venetian floor.”

Modern Terrazzo took off in popularity with the introduction of electric grinders.  Terrazzo is often identifiable due to the metal dividers that separate larger squares of flooring.  These metal expansion control joints relieve stress and keep the floor from cracking while adding to the decorative patterns.

Do you have a favorite building in Mississippi that has Terrazzo floors?  If so please share!  You can learn more about today’s Terrazzo industry by visiting the website of the National Terrazzo and Mosaic Association.  So keep your eyes out for this and the previous MissPres Architectural Word of the Week.  You just never know where they will pop up next!



Categories: Ackerman, Books, Courthouses, Gulfport, Historic Preservation, Jackson, Long Beach, Modernism, Natchez, Oxford, Post Offices, Universities/Colleges

16 replies

  1. It’s not in Mississippi, but I first saw terrazzo up close and personal visiting a house post-Katrina rehab. The terrazzo floors were the only thing that survived in tact, and the only thing the owners were able to save except for the exterior brick of the house.

    I especially like the photo of the Natchez store front and the stairs in Bondurant.

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    • I wonder if any one has ever tried making an entire house out of Terrazzo? The stairs at Bondurant are interesting aren’t they? Casting the stringer, riser, and tread as one piece much have been difficult but the results turned out great.

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  2. That storefront is,great! Never noticed it before! Terrazzo is my favorite architectural material of all time– malleable into all sorts of shapes and colors, eminently practical, able to withstand hurricanes, etc.

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  3. WOW! at the shine in Eastland Federal Courthouse. Beautiful still after so many years of use.

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  4. The Natchez storefront is familiar. I’m sure I recall seeing it at some point when I lived there, but I can’t place the building exactly.

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    • The building is on N. Commerce between Main and Franklin streets. The whole storefront is pretty great. Terrazzo, Structural Glass, Aluminum, Corrugated Panels, and lots of special display space, what more could you ask for?

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  5. How ’bout that FAKE terrazzo that became popular (according to some folks) in the 1960s? Those plastic chips encased in some clear resin like epoxy or something.

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  6. Church Street Primary School building built in the late 1930s (Town and Overstreet, Architects) in Tupelo has a terrazzo lobby floor. Still looks the same after all these years.

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