Simple, attractive, eco-friendly
The idea of mosaics is now more than 2,500 years old, hence has been rigorously tested by time.
In the story of green architecture, the chapter on mosaic floors will be an important one. It is among the first major manufactured floor tiles, with a simple technology that could be replicated across the country. Following the oxide floors in timeline, mosaic tiles ruled Indian buildings for many decades, before the advent of more advanced manufactured options appeared. Forgetting mosaic floors will be like deleting a major eco-friendly option from our list, for it continues to be as valid as it was as in the past.
It will be surprising to hear that the idea of mosaics is now more than 2,500 years old, hence has been rigorously tested by time, more than any other material has undergone. A simple concept of placing small chips of strong material closely, held by bonding material, was tried out by the Greeks many thousands of years ago and continuing the idea, the Roman Empire exploited it in every possible way – art work, relief mural, wall finish or flooring tile. Routinely they were assembled on site though the required pieces could have been transported from outside. Ever since these experiments, mosaics have had a presence in buildings across many countries, and were also known as terrazzo floor.
The popular availability of cement ensured mosaics became stronger and lasted long. In the Indian context, white cement is used along with small marble chips of varied colours, mixed well with other ingredients like dolomite powder and colouring oxide powders. Grey cement can also be used to reduce the cost or qualify the surface colour. Tiles are rather heavy and thick, with cement concrete base topped with the colourful stone chips, the base colour retained as white, grey or pigmented as needed. The mix is poured into a mould such that the surface premix will be on top, machine pressed, cured in open air for a day, cured by immersing in water for 15 days and then dried for five days in a shaded shed. Mosaic can be laid in situ also.
The simplicity of technology ensured that mosaic tiles could be made even in small towns, hence becoming local – an important factor in saving energy. It needs no firewood, high temperature kilns or costly machinery. Water used for curing is recycled with the only major nuisance being the dust and powder spreading out. It is easy to locally repair the floor by replacing the few tiles as required or recycle the whole lot of tiles by carefully dismantling them.
Not all regions and towns can get abundant supply of natural flooring nor can everyone afford the industrialised options, being transported from long distances. Be it a big or a small town, some make of mosaic tiles are still available with good value for money. If so, one would wonder why they are slowly disappearing from the popular choices. It is time we relook at mosaic tiles.