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Top five pointers for architects and designers using mosaic art

Mosaic is an architectural medium

Mosaic is an architectural medium, dating back to the ancient Sumerian era. But all too often its true potential is overlooked. Here I look at the top five pointers for architects and designers using mosaic.

Read these top five pointers for architects and designers using mosaic. Discover how you can take full advantage of this beautiful medium. Mosaic is a versatile material. It will add to your design palette alongside the other cladding surface materials. Whether you are an architect, interior designer or building manager. This list will help you realise your buildings full potential.

Find out about the mosaic commissioning process here in our Six Point Guide to Commissioning a Mosaic

The top five pointers for architects and designers using mosaic art

1. Be creative

Unleash your imagination, mosaic is an flexible medium, it can run up walls and across floors, it can bend, twist and curve around any form.

Mosaic can bring a new narrative to your space or it can help reveal hidden narratives that are already there. Mosaic can be used to highlight or compliment your buildings colour palette. It can cover a whole wall or floor, or could be a simple meandering line inlayed into another complimentary surface material.

2. Think about light, texture, pattern and colour

Most people think of a mosaic as a traditional figurative design image. But this is just one aspect of how it can be used and what qualities it can bring to your building. Mosaic is also about light, texture, pattern and colour.

Light

The relationship of light to mosaic is both beautiful and complex. The play of light falling across a wall can be reflected, interrupted or absorbed to stunning effect.

Byzantine architects knew how to use mosaic. Using the rich colours and gold to capture and reflect the lowest amounts of light. Glass, glazed ceramics, gold and metallic tesserae will sparkle and twinkle. Marbles and porcelain enhance the surface.

Texture

Of course related to light is texture. This quality of mosaic is often overlooked but can be used with great results. The surface of mosaic can take many forms. From the glass like polish of a fine marble floor to highly textured tesserae, laid at angles or at differing levels, .

Mosaic texture will change as the ambient light changes. It can also be lit to bring out the texture of the mosaic. Because art mosaics are laid by hand this texture can be controlled to also give flow and direction.

Smalti laid at angle

Pattern

Pattern is the essence of all mosaic. This can range from the simple repeated cube, , to highly complex patterns. The patterns that mosaics form are a key part of their beauty.  They draw the viewer in as they marvel at the complexity of the work involved.

We can also use pattern to help give cultural significance and identity to a space.

Patterns of Immigration

Colour

Colour has always been a factor to consider in architectural spaces. Mosaic offers not only a rich and diverse palette, but also the purest colour.

Mosaic uses colour in a unique way in mosaic. The mosaic artist uses pure colour with each tesserae. This act of combining blocks of pure colour gives a vivid feeling of life to the surface. Mosaic adds a quality surface to your building. From bright vivid colours to subtle earth hues.

Venetian Glass Rainbow Mosaic

3. Integrate your mosaic into the building

Too many mosaics end up being little more than a ‘gallery painting’ hanging on the wall. Don’t miss the opportunity to integrate your mosaic into the building. A good mosaic artist will be able to collaborate with the architect. Ensuring that the design and the technical specification work harmoniously with your building. This integration can also reflect any story or thematic scheme of your building.

Of course floor mosaics need to be flat and level with their surroundings. , but wall enjoy being flush with the wall surface. I like to think of mosaic as an exquisite piece of jewellery. It can enhance and highlight the essence of your buildings design. A tall thin wall mosaic can enhance the height of a lobby or light well. It can even reflect the light source, drawing light across it’s surface. A good mosaic will enhance the space and add a focal point of interest that compliments the space.

Stair wrap mosaic - Tidepool

4. Get to know the material options

Knowing a little about the materials used in mosaic will help inform your decisions. This will enable you to specify the best use of mosaic in your project:

 

Venetian Smalti

Hand made glass enamel. This is the Rolls Royce of mosaic material. Still hand made in the traditional manner in a few workshops around Venice. Glass Smalti comes in a huge range of colours from subtle hues to intense colour. Traditionally an opaque glass, the range also includes some transparent and metallic colours. Vivid metallic colours include silver and a range of 24 carat gold leaf tesserae.

Smalti is traditionally used in small cubes approximately 180mm x 10mm x 80mm. Larger plate smalti creates a more contemporary feel. This is contemporary style is illustrated here in the Tottenham Court Road Mosaics.

Working with Colour

Marble and Travertines

The original mosaic material, marble mosaics have a classical timelessness. We use this material can in many ways. Rough cut, textured finishes, through beautiful riven surfaces, to a glass like polish. The natural colours compliment our built environment. The variations and veining of marble means that the surface is aways alive.

An array of coloured stones are sourced from around the world. A marble mosaic floor is the ultimate in luxury flooring.

Black and White Marble Floor

Litovi

A modern and completely unique ceramic material hand made in France. This material combines the tough exterior durability of porcelain with the texture and colours of Smalti. A mostly matte unglazed ceramic Litovi is high fired to give it the high strength of porcelain.

Litovi’s colour palette is much wider than other porcelains. It is designed to be cut with the mosaic makers hammer to give a vibrant and dynamic textured finish.

Litovi Mosaic

Unglazed Porcelain

Tough, frost proof and slip resistant, unglazed porcelain is fantastic for floor mosaics. It gives the perfect flat matte finish for floors and only takes 5mm of the floor structure. It can be used in combination with underfloor heating and in pools.

Due to it’s clean cutting nature, porcelain can give a clean  graphic-like rendering. Of course it can also be used on walls, ceilings and wrap around structures.

Vitreous Glass

The machine made glass common in pool mosaics. This can be used on walls and three dimensional structures. The colour range is bright including bright reds, oranges, pink and greens. There is also a range of iridescent and metallic finishes.

Sunburst wall mosaic

Glazed Ceramic

Galzed ceramic are available in an increasing range of colours. The surface of glazed ceramic is usually flat and glassy. This can interfere with the perception of surface. Yet when used in a modern style can give bright dramatic effect.

Most glazed ceramics are not suitable for exterior use. However glazed porcelain is great for exterior walls. It is  particularly effective when used in large and mixed size pieces.

It's Good To Be Me - Kaleidoscope mosaic

Pebbles

The most ancient floor surface. Pebble floors, like this one discovered in Pella in Macedonian Greece. These show how sophisticated mosaics had already become by the fourth century BC.

5. Work your idea in from the earliest stages

Considering using mosaic in your project? Then start talking to a mosaic artist at the earliest opportunity. Consulting early has many benefits: 

Highlight alternative design options before it’s too late to change . 

Ensure an efficient timetable and seamless installation by consulting a mosaic artist early.

Items to consider will include:-

  • Foundation and site preparation; 
  • Lighting for the mosaic if needed; 
  • Maintenance implications; 
  • Fabrication timetable; 
  • Installation timetable. 

A good mosaic artist will be able to advise on all of these aspects.

Remember:

  • Good mosaics take time to make, start early
  • Design the mosaic into the fabric of the building
  • Help your chosen mosaic artist see and understand your vision for the building
 
 

You can find out about the mosaic commissioning process here in our Six Point Guide to Commissioning a Mosaic

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