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New Engineering Centers Building portrays engineering as art

Drew Rizzio

Drew Rizzio levels the poured floor. The designs were created by bending and twisting half-inch high zinc and brass dividers, which were then put on a piece of flexible membrane covering that sits atop the concrete floor. The membrane covering, often used in earthquake-prone areas, ensures that the floor can withstand subtle shifting without breaking into pieces. (large image)

Scott Parsons

Scott Parsons, right, watches a crew of terrazzo floor specialists work on a section of the floor. (large image)

Floors are made for walking. But in the case of the new Engineering Centers Building, its floor is made for gazing, as well.

Work on an 11,000-square-foot terrazzo floor in the ECB is more than halfway done, according to artist Scott Parsons. The floor represents a unique take on the College of Engineering's widely admired art program — a functional (and heavily trafficked) floor as a piece of art.

The terrazzo floor reflects images — such as circuits, CAT scans, and crystals — found in engineering research. Parsons used half-inch tall zinc and brass divider strips to create the floor's design. The floor is filled with a combination of epoxy, marble chips, glass chips and marble dust that is poured into the design shapes. The work resembles laying and pouring a sidewalk, only a much more colorful one.

The ECB's terrazzo floor is funded by the Wisconsin Percent for Art Program, which requires that two-tenths of 1 percent of the construction cost of new state buildings be set aside for commissioning or purchasing art.

Parsons hopes to complete the floor within a month. The ECB is scheduled to open this fall semester.