Creating an usual school floor became a collaborative effort for design firm Muller & Muller. While working on the new West Ridge Elementary School on the northwest side of Chicago, the firm worked with the Chicago Public Building Commission (PBC) and terrazzo contractor John Caretti & Company to create three distinct but unified terrazzo patterns that were intended to be both educational and inspiring.
The design team came up with an intricate set of designs that featured letters and numbers, art objects, and a broad color palette. “We were inspired to create. We became the artists,” said Wendy Viamontes, Project Manager/Project Architect with Muller & Muller.
Even so, Muller & Muller needed to work within strict budget and time constraints. There were five new elementary schools under construction simultaneously through the PBC,
all featuring terrazzo flooring, and all needed to be ready when the new school year started in the fall of 2010. The Muller & Muller design team worked with the staff at John Caretti and with their own cost estimator to make sure that their terrazzo designs would be delivered on time and under budget.
John Caretti & Company delivered, the floors earned an NTMA honor award for 2011, and the project was completed by the deadline and within budget. Caretti was thrilled to have an opportunity to rise to the challenge to create a truly distinctive design. “The artisans who were installing the terrazzo were so excited about their floors,” Viamontes said. “They were so eager to uncover their work and show it off.”
The original design provided whimsy for the third floor, presenting the planets, correctly proportioned in order to be an educational tool. The other two floors were more constrained, and the PBC requested something more. To the delight of the PBC, the team created designs for the school’s three floors that follow a theme of the “Three P’s”:
Pi, the mathematical value, on the first.
Presidents of the United States on the second.
Planets in the solar system on the third.
In addition to the colors and shapes, the design team sought to create designs that the teachers could use as educational tools. Names do not appear for the planets, so it is up to the students to identify each one. Likewise, the students are challenged to fill in the details for the U.S. presidents named on the second floor. The design provides the length of each president’s term, but does not offer any other information about the president’s time in office or historical events happening during their terms.
The second floor offers enough space to add several future presidents to the hallway, though the design team was delighted that the last president added is a Chicagoan, Barack Obama. Mayor Richard M. Daley personally dedicated West Ridge Elementary School on September 15, 2010.
Planning, design and construction of the new school was managed by the Public Building Commission (PBC) on behalf of the Chicago Public Schools. Mindy Viamontes, Project Manager/Project Architect with Muller & Muller, coordinated the work of the design team that created the terrazzo designs that grace the building’s three floors. Hannibal Newsom, Project Architect for Muller & Muller, is credited for creating terrazzo concepts that were ultimately used, while the entire design team worked together to develop the final designs.