Terrazzo, once confined to traditional applications on floors and flat surfaces, has broken free from its limitations and is now becoming a canvas for artistic expression. London-based sound artist and designer Yuri Suzuki has ventured into the world of terrazzo with his Totem collection of miniature linking toys. This innovative approach to terrazzo showcases its versatility and opens up new creative possibilities.
Suzuki’s Totem collection features a whimsical array of shapes, including pancake-like disks, conical towers, off-kilter spheres, and wobbly calisson-shaped boats. Produced in collaboration with the Majorcan cement and tile manufacturer Huguet, as part of a partnership with the design agency Pentagram (where Suzuki is a partner), the series invites both adults and children to explore and discover their unique compositions.
The playful and imaginative objects evoke memories of the Memphis Group, an avant-garde design collective from the ’80s, particularly the kaleidoscopic, glass-specked furniture created by Japanese designer Shiro Kuramata, whose work has long inspired Suzuki. Suzuki reflects on his upbringing in Japan, where minimalism prevailed, but the Italian design movement brought vibrancy and color into the design landscape.
In Los Angeles, artist David Wiseman, known for his intricate light fixtures and furniture inspired by nature, has also embraced the creative potential of terrazzo. For more than a decade, Wiseman has incorporated terrazzo into his work, using minerals like emeralds, opals, and jasper to infuse color into his otherwise restrained palette of bronze and porcelain.
At his Frogtown studio, Wiseman meticulously shapes terrazzo into complex organic forms, a labor-intensive process that requires patience and precision. His compositions reveal the vivid jewel tones and delicate veining inherent in the material, providing a unique glimpse into what he describes as the “interior world of rocks.”
Both Suzuki and Wiseman’s innovative use of terrazzo showcases its capacity to transcend traditional boundaries and serve as a medium for artistic exploration, inspiring new perspectives on this versatile material.
Other makers, however, are forgoing rocks altogether. The 38-year-old British Chinese designer Elaine Yan Ling Ng’s dappled, terrazzoesque rectangular Carrelé tiles, which come in zellige-like shades such as blush and jade green, are made from crushed eggshells discarded by bakeries and restaurant kitchens. And the French designer Anna Saint Pierre, 32, creates her speckled Granito flooring surface by setting chunks of construction debris in limestone, terra cotta and black-tinted concrete, working on site during renovation projects to repurpose scraps in situ. It’s a method that recalls the make-do spirit from which terrazzo arose — but also one that underscores its potential in an era that calls for more sustainable materials and less expected quarries. “Stones,” and possible stand-ins, says Saint Pierre, “are lying all over the place.”
Photo assistant: Timothy Mulcare