Stone World

Stone medallion spruces up performing arts center

September 27, 2010
Recently, a renovation to the entrance of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) involved replacing an existing terrazzo floor with a 2,470-square-foot stone medallion, featuring waterjet-cut slabs of Ubatuba granite with donor names inscribed in them. The pieces were fabricated by Creative Edge Mastershop of Fairfield, IA, and installed with products from Laticrete International of Bethany, CT.


The New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) opened in 1997 as the sixth-largest performing arts center in the U.S., and this world-class cultural complex has played a key role in jumpstarting the revitalization of Newark, NJ, as it has attracted nearly 6 million visitors to its 12-acre campus in just 11 years. Recently, a renovation to the entrance of NJPAC involved replacing an existing terrazzo floor with a 2,470-square-foot stone medallion - making for a grand statement as patrons walk through the doors. The stone piece was installed with Laticrete products by professional tile and stone contractors from Tiede-Zoeller of Long Beach, MS.

The medallion for this non-profit organization was designed by NJPAC’s original architect, Barton Myers, FAIA, in collaboration with David Karp and Peter Robinson. It was funded largely through donations that were recognized in the form of sand-carved and color-filled names and inscriptions on slabs of Ubatuba granite. The size of each donation dictated where the name or inscription was placed in the design, working by amount toward the larger, more prominent center-pieces of the medallion.

Due to the grand size of the slabs as well as the intricate design, the install crew from Tiede-Zoeller relied on the Tuscan Leveling System from Pearl Abrasive Co. of Commerce, CA, to assist in the installation of this massive stone medallion. 

A total of 385 pieces of Ubatuba granite slabs in three different styles were precisely waterjet cut by Creative Edge Mastershop of Fairfield, IA. And due to the grand size of the slabs - some measured as large as 8 x 5 feet - as well as the intricate design, the install crew from Tiede-Zoeller relied on the Tuscan Leveling System from Pearl Abrasive Co. of Commerce, CA, to assist in the installation of this massive stone medallion.

The stone medallion measures a full 56 feet in diameter, and was installed over a floor where the existing terrazzo had to be demolished and properly prepared for heavy granite slabs. In addition, the remaining concrete slab needed 1 ½-inch holes cut out and corresponding conduit channels for each of the 70 lights installed to illuminate this stone artwork.

Peter Lord, Project Manager for Tiede-Zoeller, has years of experience installing tile and stone with Laticrete products, but had to take time to learn the Tuscan Leveling System before beginning the project. The Tuscan Leveling System is designed to create a virtually lippage-free installation with stone or ceramic tiles. The system interlocks the granite slabs with a series of caps connected by proprietary blended nylon composition straps to a bottom plate. The bottom plates, nylon straps and caps on top work to clamp down on the edge of each tile and the edge of the next tile in the layout as the installer goes along. The system of spaced out caps are tightened during installation to create a single flat, slab-like surface, while Laticrete setting materials were bonding and curing to the stone. This process reduces - and in most cases eliminates - shrinkage and warping, along with the need to pick up the tiles and add additional mortar for leveling purposes.

“Tiede-Zoeller was under very rigid time constraints,” said Mick Volponi of Tuscan Leveling System. “The leveling system speeds up installations like this by eliminating the ‘re-lift and set’ step. When this system is used in combination with Laticrete products and installed by skilled contractors, the result is a completely flat surface.”

The first step after stripping down the old terrazzo flooring to the original mud bed was to level the substrate with Laticrete 86 LatiLevel to ensure a smooth and level base for tiling. When Laticrete 86 LatiLevel had dried to a smooth finish, Lord and his team from Tiede-Zoeller applied Laticrete Hydro Ban to eliminate the threat of water intrusion and to provide anti-fracture protection for the finished installation. Laticrete Hydro Ban is a thin, load-bearing waterproofing and anti-fracture membrane that does not require the use of fabric in the field, coves or corners. The product bonds directly to a wide variety of substrates, including metal and PVC plumbing fixtures.

After stripping down the original terrazzo flooring to the original mud bed, the substrate was leveled with Laticrete 86 LatiLevel to ensure a smooth and level base for tiling. When Laticrete 86 LatiLevel had dried to a smooth finish, Laticrete Hydro Ban was applied to eliminate the threat of water intrusion and to provide anti-fracture protection for the finished installation. Laticrete 1500 Sanded Grout was mixed with Laticrete 1776 Grout Enhancer and used to fill the 1/8-inch grout joints between each piece of stone.

“We use a great deal of Laticrete products,” said Lord. “We use Laticrete extensively, and we are very happy with the products. We used rollers and applied Laticrete Hydro Ban very easily. The product has a very fast cure time. To me, those are very good benefits. There’s no question the product speeds up installations considerably. It can literally take days off certain projects.”

Laticrete Hydro Ban cures to a light sage or olive green color when ready for flood testing, and once this process was complete, Tiede-Zoeller set the granite slabs with Laticrete 220 Marble & Granite Mortar, a medium-bed adhesive that’s specifically formulated for projects of this type. The mortar bed also served as the adhesive to bond the Ubatuba water-jet cut stone pieces. Each heavy stone slab was back-buttered with Laticrete 220 Marble & Granite Mortar and set over the mud bed with the Tuscan Leveling System clamping each piece of stone together to form one continuous slab-like surface to avoid shrinkage, and ultimately lippage between the tiles.

When the installation materials had cured and the stone pieces were firmly set in place, the top part of the straps were effectively snapped off - along with the reusable caps of the Tuscan Leveling System - at a separation point below the surface of the slab. After this process was completed, the grout joints were cleared out in preparation for the final step. For this elaborate stone medallion, Laticrete 1500 Sanded Grout was mixed with Laticrete 1776 Grout Enhancer and used to fill the 1/8-inch grout joints between each piece of stone. Laticrete 1500 Sanded Grout is a factory prepared grout formulated from a blend of high-strength portland cement, graded aggregates, polymers and color-fast pigments. When Laticrete 1500 Sanded Grout is mixed with Laticrete 1776 Grout Enhancer instead of water, the product characteristics improve with colorfast, dense and durable grout joints, fortified with antimicrobial protection from Microban® to further inhibit stain-causing mold and mildew for enhanced performance and aesthetics.

“Tiede-Zoeller did an outstanding job with some difficult situations to overcome,” said Robert Sawyer of Creative Edge Mastershop. “With Tiede-Zoeller and Mick’s [Volponi] team, I’ve never worked with a better crew. This was not a standard installation by any means, and it turned out gorgeous.”

Stone Medallion

New Jersey Performing Arts Center
Newark, NJ

Architect: Barton Myers, FAIA, in collaboration with David Karp and Peter Robinson

Stone Installer: Tiede-Zoeller, Long Beach, MS

Stone Installation Products: Pearl Abrasive Co., Commerce, CA (Tuscan Leveling System); Laticrete International Inc., Bethany, CT

Waterjet Fabricator: Creative Edge Mastershop, Fairfield, IA