The Richard and Barbara Silverman Hall, Chicago, IL

More often than not, science and art are seen as opposite sides of the spectrum. Logic versus creativity. Reality versus imagination. Right brain versus left brain.

But if you take a look at the remarkable terrazzo floors in the Richard and Barbara Silverman Hall for Molecular Therapeutics and Diagnostics, you will find that one without the other is impossible. The terrazzo teaches you that science is beautiful and artwork is one of the grandest experiments in the world.

Soon after John Caretti & Co. was awarded the terrazzo project for a new science and medicine research facility at Northwestern University, the school received a donation from Dr. Richard Silverman, a chemistry professor at the college. This donation was made possible by royalties received from Lyrica, an innovative therapy drug developed by Silverman for neuropathic diseases.

The decision was then made to add metalwork to the terrazzo that showed the significance of science. Among the shades of green and cream terrazzo lay intricately detailed inlays of the periodic table, single strands of the helix shape, elements and molecules, and the chemical molecule makeup of Lyrica, the drug that helped to fund the research facility. These designs not only reflect the areas and research of the university, but serve as linking elements throughout the building.

“Silverman Hall is designed to enhance interactions and collaborations among colleagues,” Anita Ambriz of Ambriz Graphic Design, the environmental graphic design firm for the project, said.

According to Ambriz, the terrazzo was chosen for its beauty, design flexibility, low maintenance, durability, and its compliance with the university’s green technology requirement. As a sustainable flooring option, terrazzo contributed to Silverman Hall’s Silver LEED certification.

“We adjusted the aggregates within a limited palette to create subtlety in the imagery,” Ambriz said. “No other flooring material seemed to offer this possibility.”

Project details

  • Location: Chicago, IL
  • Project Name: The Richard and Barbara Silverman Hall
    for Molecular Therapeutics and Diagnostics
  • Owner/Client: Northwestern University
  • Terrazzo Contractor: John Caretti & Co.
  • Architect: Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects LLP
  • General Contractor: Turner Construction Company
  • Terrazzo Material Supplier: Terrazzo & Marble Supply Co.
  • Divider Strip Supplier: Manhattan American Terrazzo Strip Co.
  • Precast Work: Wausau Tile
  • Graphic Design Consultant: Ambriz Graphic Design
  • Photography: John Caretti & Co. and Mark Ballogg

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