Artist-designed installations raise terrazzo to new heights

‘Learning Paths’ At Winona State University’s Education Village

“Artist-designed terrazzo installations, rather than being simply high-quality floor treatments, exist as artworks in themselves,” said Brad Kaspari, who with Carolyn Braaksma designed Winona State University’s whimsical “Learning Paths” floor.


Part of a 100,000-square-foot Education Village project, “Learning Paths” is a 3100-square-foot art installation in terrazzo, funded by Minnesota’s Art in Public Spaces. Kaspari and Braaksma’s playful design highlights thinking and reading as a metaphor for defining one’s path in life through education.

For the architect, the floor helped his team reach its practical objectives.

“The biggest challenge on the project as a whole was striking the right balance between achieving a cutting-edge 21st-century learning environment that would be fiscally responsible, all while avoiding trends and remaining relevant and adaptable for decades to come,” said Joe Bower, Senior Architect with Leo A. Daly of Omaha, NE.



Kaspari, who has been producing metalwork for terrazzo layouts for over 25 years, fabricated the divider strips for the design in his studio. Some of the smaller and more intricate elements were waterjet cut. The metalwork was placed on mesh and delivered to the terrazzo contractor for installation.

Kaspari noted that he and Braaksma had discovered several advantages to producing metalwork in a studio environment. For one, it allows for a degree of attention to detail that’s not always possible in the field. It also allows for greater design editing and revising throughout the fabrication process. The artists can mix metals and materials in a way that would be complicated to specify in a contractor-produced layout.

“That being said, the guys at Grazzini Brothers were responsible for the layout of many of the larger design features, and they did a fantastic job,” he said. “It’s always a pleasure to work beside skilled terrazzo craft people. They can troubleshoot field installation issues—which always occur—in a way that Carolyn and I cannot.”


The nine-color floor included a subtle color gradient from maroon to purple.

“Carolyn and I are always looking for ways to push the materials in a new direction we haven’t tried before,” Kaspari said. “This color progression was one example.”

The terrazzo artisans turned two epoxy colors into six by gradually increasing percentages of color, and mixing samples in their shop, explained Mark Miranda, Senior Project Manager and fifth generation with family-owned Grazzini Brothers & Company of St. Paul. The aggregate mix remained consistent throughout the color ramp. Each color was poured against the wet edge of the previous one.



The terrazzo floor is highly sustainable, contributing minimal maintenance requirements and maximum durability. The Education Village Project complied with Minnesota’s B3 program, a sustainability system that mirrors LEED standards. B3 was developed for and is required on state-funded projects. The project combines daylighting strategies, efficient mechanical systems, optimized energy usage, sustainable site design, and other measures to achieve what would be equivalent to a LEED Silver level of sustainable design.

Scale & Space

The interactive paths bring visual structure to the floor and mirror pedestrian flow, drawing visitors into and through the space in various ways. Installed in the entrance atrium of Wabasha Hall—the central hub of Education Village —the design is visible through windows and appreciated from varied vantage points. The scale of individual elements varies substantially; some are meant to be viewed up close. Others are best seen from above.

“Overall, this was a fabulous architectural context for terrazzo,” Kaspari said. “It has all the advantages: great natural light, beautiful views from the mezzanine level, and interesting interior design. It raised a floor to the level of art.”

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