Transformation of Aging High School Unified by Terrazzo Floor
After Ladue, MO, residents voted for the state’s largest high school bond project to remodel Ladue Horton High School, terrazzo played a key role in the transformation of the 70-year-old facility.
According to Peter Steuterman, AIA, with Hastings+Chivetta Architects of St. Louis, the design team faced exceptionally difficult existing conditions that were to be concealed behind a new terrazzo installation.
The school’s main building was built in 1952. The original gym, built in 1960, had been remodeled to serve as a community meeting space and cafeteria.
The construction teams had to deal with moisture conditions, pipes, existing floors, intersections, and slab conditions, from a buried slab in one part to an elevated slab elsewhere. Crews took care to ensure that no flaws in a substrate would transfer through to the surface of the new floor. It was, Steuterman noted, one of those projects in which “nobody knows how hard you worked.”
“My job is that no one know about all that,” he said of the underlying challenges.
The scope of the project ranged from complete razing of existing buildings to new construction of slab on grade. The expanded complex centered on a handsome new grand entry lobby, the perfect setting for a 43,300-square-foot terrazzo floor in a four-color design that unifies the interior aesthetic.
The new lobby features a terrazzo medallion in school colors depicting the school’s famous bell tower. A set of 12-foot-wide communal learning stairs with inlaid maple benches offers a modern, functional take on the traditional grand entry staircase.
Such a sweeping project required complete communication prior to and during construction. The team held many pre-bid conversations about expectations and devising solutions to challenges. Long before work began on the job site, they worked closely with the local terrazzo contractor, Missouri Terrazzo, a member of the National Terrazzo & Mosaic Association (NTMA). The contractor was adept at taking into account and properly responding to all existing conditions and test reports, the architect confirmed.
For Steuterman, terrazzo is a choice that opened many opportunities to the design team to establish an element of lasting beauty and pride.
“You are investing in the building, the community, and history,” he explained. “You can install two or three carpet floors or keep cleaning and polishing your terrazzo.”