Traditional Venetian Terrazzo at Houston's Museum of Fine Arts
The National Terrazzo & Mosaic Association (NTMA) announced the industry's highest honor, the Job of the Year, on February 12 at the association's 99th annual national convention in Palm Springs, CA. The NTMA recognized Southern Tile & Terrazzo of Houston for its traditional sand-cushion Venetian (large-scale aggregate) terrazzo installation in Houston's Museum of Fine Arts Nancy and Rich Kinder Building.
The objective of the designers, Steven Holl Architects of New York, NY, for the floors in the new gallery was to respond to the existing terrazzo installed in the museum's Cullinan Hall by the contractor's father in 1958. This historic installation, which is in excellent condition, was replicated in a transitional lobby space. In the new building, a complementary slate-gray color in the same style was specified.
Bigger in Texas
The oldest museum in Texas began a redevelopment project in 2012, which was concluded with the opening of the Kinder building late in 2020. The centerpiece of the museum complex, the new building contains 45,500-square-foot of Venetian terrazzo with size 4-7 marble aggregates. The terrazzo is installed over five levels with base, plinth, and stairs. In a tunnel connecting to the Cullinan Hall, 4,000 square feet of white terrazzo was installed; it is the only section with smaller aggregates.
The installation is “true Venetian terrazzo,” said Jonathan Maraldo, who, with his brother, Brandon, is the third generation of the family-owned business and a member of the NTMA’s board of directors. Because of the aggregate size, the terrazzo topping was poured one inch thick instead of the typical half-inch topping for sand-cushion applications, and four inches of mortar underbed instead of the usual three inches.
The aggregate stones were also seeded by hand into the terrazzo topping instead of blended into the poured cement mix, as is typical with smaller chips. Then the floors were tamped down and rolled to remove the moisture.
“Old-timers used to say, ‘The more you roll the floor, the better the results,'” said Jonathan Maraldo’s father, Michael Maraldo, president of the company. “I’ve lived by that.” A floor is rolled until the outline of the divider strips can be seen, then allowed to harden. Grinding then reveals the texture of the chips, followed by a final polish.
A Family Tradition
Michael Maraldo added that it takes “true craftsmen” to install the larger aggregates. He credits the success of this project to the previous generation as well as its skilled current terrazzo mechanics.
“My dad and uncle always worked in the field and were master mechanics and knew the trade,” he explained. The company still boasts three mechanics, including the foreman, who were trained by the last generation, who both immigrated from Italy in the 1940s. “We hope to continue that tradition,” he said.
Incorporated in 1960, Southern Tile & Terrazzo has been an NTMA member for 62 years. The contractor also won the Job of the Year in 2020 with another traditional terrazzo installation in the Bank of America Tower in downtown Houston. The Maraldo family takes pride in these special recognitions by their industry peers.
“They are both unique and interesting jobs,” Jonathan Maraldo said. “It’s a great feeling knowing these jobs spread across generations will still be there many years into the future.”
NTMA’s annual Honor Award program recognizes outstanding terrazzo projects installed by its members. This year’s Job of the Year was one of 15 Honor Awards presented, including special awards in art and renovation. The Honor Awards program is dedicated to promoting member contractors as the sole qualified resource for terrazzo installations that meet the highest industry standards. Each year, a group of carefully selected experts—terrazzo industry veterans and design professionals—evaluates the submitted entries. Entries are judged on creativity, design, and quality of craftsmanship.