Terrazzo is versatile, responsive and sympathetic to the contemporary character of architectural construction, accommodating
the open flow-through of spaces. When polished to a lustrous finish it serves to both unify and highlight the building interior, while enhancing the conceptual and architectural integrity of the whole.
This versatile material is also one of the most economical to maintain and is renowned around the world for its durability in
heavily trafficked public buildings.
Terrazzo can be installed on site or can be prefabricated in sections under controlled circumstances and transported to sites
The true origins of terrazzo remain speculative. Folklore attributes the invention of terrazzo to the economic need to
capitalize on the tonnage of broken marble waste, which was the byproduct of marble quarries, such as the famous quarries of Carrara in Italy.
More recent history, however, saw reinforced concrete first mooted in the mid-19th century, and cement assert itself as an
indispensable modern building material after 1871, when the American, David O. Saylor patented an equivalent of Portland cement. Coincidentally, this marks the emergence of decorative terrazzo from obscurity.
Terrazzo appeared in buildings around the turn of the 20th century with elaborate descriptive designs in brass inlay in-filled
with variously coloured terrazzo. The 1920's and 30's witnessed terrazzo boldly applied, in strong colours and contrast, to the geometric patterning typical of Art Deco-style architecture, as may be seen in
Terrazzo has become international and continues to be employed in predominantly public architectural schemes for paths,
floors, steps, staircases and even service areas largely devoid of a decorative content.
Sydney is home to impressive examples in this style, such as the terrazzo rendition of the antique Bonaparte Tasman Map,
executed by Melocco Brothers Pty Ltd in 1941, in the vestibule of the Mitchell Library in Macquarie StreetSydney.
One of the world's most beautiful terrazzo works lies in the Crypt of St Mary's Cathedral Peter Melocco's terrazzo
masterpiece made in 1945/48. In 1972 it received international recognition - The National Mosaic and Terrazzo Association of American gave it an award "for superior craftsmanship accomplished in the execution of
terrazzo work in religious buildings".
Peter Melocco sponsored to Australia the highest caliber terrazzo artisans to work with him. They stayed, and became the
foundation of the terrazzo industry in Australia today,
David Humphries, when Artistic Director for Harbourside Festival Marketplace, was so inspired by Melocco's work and the
legacy of such skilled artisans he set about developing a program of decorative terrazzo art floors at Harbourside.
He realized that to design for terrazzo you needed to understand the medium and the best way to learn was to work alongside
the masters. Having contracts of the scale of Harbourside and subsequently Skygarden gave the terrazzo industry the incentive to allow Public Art Squad Studio access to learn and experiment in the factory and on the
job. The artists innovations combined with the age-old skills of the terrazzo workers have revolutionized the industry.
The cost of intricate brass inlay for patterned terrazzo had become, over the years, prohibitively expensive. In 1987, Public
Art Squad dramatically revolutionized manufacturing techniques, thus enabling terrazzo to once again fulfill its decorative potential. A major innovation was the discovery of a much cheaper alternative to brass -
polystyrene. Lightweight yet available in thick sheet form, polystyrene cuts easily, and could be removed without damage to previously poured colours and rapidly became the ideal template material.
The involvement of artists enables colours and textures to be mixed in a custom made way, adding to the sophistication of the
project. Combined with the aesthetic control and inventive thinking by artists, traditional methods have been extended and bold new imagery has found its way into contemporary built environments.
The future of terrazzo is beckoning the imagination of designers and artists. The success of the medium for expressive
application has been aptly demonstrated. Using his honed skills and artistic eye, Humphries careful combination of pigments, marble chips, rare coloured glass, shells, custom made decorative inserts of mosaic, water
jet cut marble, bronze and mirror backed glass, makes his work unique. He has enlivened this ancient medium giving it contemporary relevance and cultural significance.
New horizons are being opened up by the innovation and lyrical artworks created in terrazzo by David Humphries - creative
initiative is his hallmark.