We met with German Meister Michael Durer, who led the fascinating terrazzo workshop in Tel Aviv, for a conversation that started with the aggregates at the Liebling House and ended in Venice
What did you learn about local terrazzo during your visit to Israel and the workshop at the Liebling House?
“The difference between local and german terrazzo is the size of the aggregates. In the In international style buildings in Tel Aviv, the aggregates are often just 3mm while in Germany they are 10 to 16mm and sometimes even 30mm. Small aggregates make it more difficult to repair the terrazzo without leaving traces of the casting and repair work (in Germany we call aggregates gemstones). It is fantastic that the original terrazzo in those buildings is preserved even though they are almost a hundred years old. In Germany, at least half of the original terrazzo was destroyed.”
What is the difference between traditional and contemporary terrazzo work?
“Traditional terrazzo requires a lot of knowledge about the materials and techniques. The craftsman should also have a lot of strength since you lay the terrazzo by hand. When it comes to industrial terrazzo, there are pumping machines that prepare the terrazzo layer.”
What is the secret of a good terrazzo casting?
“There is no magic formula. At the beginning, I thought I could become a professional terrazzo craftsman after ten years of working with it. But I now realize that the Terrazzieri (terrazzo artists) in Italy in the 15th century were real specialists. It is almost impossible today to reach this level and create such a beautiful terrazzo.”
Where did you study to be a Meister of terrazzo?
“I studied civil engineering in Regensburg from 1988 to 1993. After 11 years of working in an office, I realized that I prefer manual labor and decided to study terrazzo at the ‘Meisters’ school in Ulm. A year later, in 2006, I started my own company: Terrazzo Werkstatt Regensburg.”
What is included in the training process?
“The academic training in school includes working with concrete and experimenting with the possibilities and the things that can be done with the material (for example, precast concrete, terrazzo, concrete ashlar, washed concrete, etc.). Then you have to learn how to run a company, make calculations, engineering, working with reinforced concrete, prepare material specifications, understand architectural style and statics.”
Can you tell us about your daily work?
“My day includes visiting the building site, meeting with the owner of the building and discussing the construction of the layers, the materials, and the design. I prepare a drawing of the terrazzo, show photos of the mosaic, make calculations, order the materials, mix the concrete and the terrazzo, lay the screed and the terrazzo layer, grind, polish and finally issue an invoice.”
How many other terrazzo-oriented companies are operating in Germany?
“I think there are about ten companies that specialize in traditional terrazzo work.”
What was the most interesting project you've worked on so far, and what made it special?
“It would be the restoration of the floor in the St. Leonhard church in Regensburg. The floor was a beautiful terrazzo and mosaic floor from 1850.”
What is your favorite part of the job?
“I enjoy the creative aspect and discussing the elements of design, and I like the moment of grinding: this is when you can see if you've done a good job. It's always a thrilling and surprising moment.”
Would you recommend young people to learn this craft? “This would be a good choice for creative people who love stones and lime, enjoy hard work, are willing to travel and be mobile, especially if they are people who believe in the importance of preservation of historical buildings for future generations.” What is your dream? “I want to learn to lay terrazzo as the Terrazzieri had it done in Venice 500 years ago. The most beautiful terrazzo floors can be found in Venice.” Our next professional workshop: Waschputz, Kratzputz and all the rest - a theoretical and practical workshop on plasterwork in international style buildings; January 18-19. For details and registration >>