Slate in Architecture: Slate provides a feeling of comfort for medical center

June 1, 2006
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Brazilian Multicolor slate, which was quarried by Green Slate Mining and supplied by Global Granite & Marble, was used throughout the main stairwell of the OSF St. Joseph's Center for Advanced Medicine in Bloomington, IL.


Phase I of the OSF St. Joseph's Center for Advanced Medicine in Bloomington, IL, included the addition of slate, which was used as flooring and as a border throughout the two-story facility. According to Project Architect Joe Bauer of Christner Inc. of St. Louis, MO, the goal of the project was to create a new patient facility center with a warm homelike atmosphere. “We didn't want a sterile hospital feel; we wanted something that would be comfortable and friendly to the visiting families,” he said.

Global Granite & Marble of St. Louis, MO, supplied more than 5,500 square feet of Brazilian Multicolor slate tiles and slabs for the project. The material - which was quarried by Green Slate Mining of Belo Horizonte, Brazil - was used in 18- x 18-inch tiles - as a border and base in the hospital's main entryway and along the wall of main corridor, which leads to a stone-clad staircase that brings visitors to the patient area of the facility.

The stair treads feature 13 ¼- x 36-inch pieces of Brazilian Multicolor slate, while the landing is comprised of four 4- x 4-foot pieces. All of the slate material was used in a natural cleft finish, and the same material was carried into the reception area on the second floor of the patient area of the facility.

According to Bauer, the material was selected for its color and finish. “The stone is just beautiful,” he said. “It has a beautiful blue background, which works well with our color scheme. And its color range varies across the board. It has some orange in it, and it has a lot of depth to it.”

Bauer said that the relationship between Christner Inc. and the stone supplier helped the project run smoothly. “Global Granite & Marble has a wonderful yard here in town,” he said. “We went over and viewed the stone and selected the pieces for the stairs. We worked closely with them on a layout to get the right coloration as you go up the stairs.”

The architect said that there were not any major challenges involved with the project, and that only the stairwell portion of the project posed slight complications. “I think it was challenging to select the right pieces for the stairs, and detail them in a manner that we could fabricate the pieces in St. Louis and deliver them to Illinois,” he said.

The same material - in 18- x 18-inch tiles - was carried into the reception area on the second floor of the patient care facility.

Selecting the right color range

Elliot Uchitelle, managing partner of Global Granite & Marble, played a key role in selecting the appropriate color range requested by the owners of the medical center.

“Multicolor Brazilian slate has a huge range of color to it. It can have lots of red it in with a little blue, or have very little rough rust color,” said Uchitelle, adding that the owners were very particular about limiting the color range of the material.

To meet the desired aesthetic, Uchitelle took a trip to Green Slate Mining's quarry in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, to see the color range of the slate. “It was beneficial that I speak Portuguese because it helped facilitate the process when I was meeting with people,” he explained. “Rather then pull the material out in slabs, it came out in layers, which made for a very interesting process.

“Since it was such a large order, we really had to set aside a good portion of the quarry in order to pull out the right range,” he continued. “The whole process took about six months. We even had material flown in to see if it was acceptable or not.”

Green Slate Mining supplied Global Granite & Marble with two different sizes of the material - tiles and large slabs, which were used for the stairs. The color range and timeline posed some minor problems for the crew, according to Uchitelle. “It was challenging to keep within the range we wanted,” he said. “During the first couple months, we weren't sure we could do it, but then we hit some good phases in the quarry.

“Green Slate knew it was going to take a long time to get us the material we were looking for,” he continued. “We had to push hard to keep things moving in order to get the job done on time. Green Slate was great to work with. They were more than happy to accommodate us, and really bent over backwards for us. The project worked out very well in that sense.”

Installing the slate

Project Manager Greg Roelfs and Principal Owner Martin Smith from Tile Specialists, Inc. in Champaign, IL, were responsible for the installation of the slate, which took a crew of three workers about a month to install.

According to Roelfs, they used installation products from Laticrete, including a latex modified thinset mortar on the floor and Latapoxy 310 for the steps and risers.

Roelfs agreed with Bauer that there was a strong relationship amongst the project team. “Jeff from Ford Marble - the fabricator for the stairwell, stairs and treads - went with the architect to visit Global Granite & Marble to pick out the slabs that they wanted to use for the steps,” he said, adding that the crew also worked closely with Timothy Schwartz from Christner Inc. to design the layout for the wall next to the stairwell.

Construction of the project began in 2002 and finished in early 2004, and according to the architect, the reaction has been extremely positive.

St. Joseph's Center for Advanced Medicine
Bloomington, IL

Architect: Christner Inc., St. Louis, MO

Stone Installer: Tile Specialists, Inc., Champaign, IL

Stone Fabricator: Ford Marble, New Athens, IL

Stone Supplier: Global Granite & Marble, St. Louis, MO

Stone Quarrier: Green Slate Mining, Belo Horizonte, Brazil

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