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MAPEI systems help LaGuardia Airport mural fly high

Massive 25,000-sq.-ft. mural is candidate for Guinness Book of World Records

New York’s LaGuardia Airport now features one of the largest continuous mosaic artwork pieces ever created. Composed solely of tile, the massive 25,000-sq.-ft. mural stretches across the entirety of Terminal B of the Departures Hall – which is one part of the new 850,000-sq.-ft. addition to the airport. MAPEI’s full system of products was chosen to complete the installation. The new mosaic mural is now a candidate for being designated as one of the largest indoor murals in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records. 


LaGuardia Airport is an international airport located in the city of Queens, N.Y., USA that spans 680 acres of land. It was originally built in 1939 and named after New York’s mayor at the time, Fiorello La Guardia. Today, LaGuardia Airport (LGA) is the third busiest airport in New York City. Over the years, parts of the interior became severely outdated and aesthetically archaic for a city like New York City, known for its diverse, fast-paced, ever-evolving and unforgettable landscape. 

In 2019, to revitalize the layout of Terminal B Arrivals and Departures Hall, New York’s Public Art Fund teamed with LaGuardia Gateway Partners to commission an art program to capture the creativity, artistry and energy of the city. 

Revitalizing Terminal B was no small feat. As one of the largest and busiest epicenters for travel to and from New York, construction would need to be functional but grand, unique yet universal, beautiful and iconic – not just refresh the halls but reinvigorate them. 

The new mosaic mural is a candidate for being designated as one of the largest indoor murals in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records. 

To complete the project, four internationally recognized artists (Laura Owens, Sarah Sze, Sabine Hornig, Jeppe Hein) were chosen to design large-scale installations throughout the arrivals and departures hall of the new Terminal B. The mural itself was designed by artist Laura Owens and features over 75 iconic images that New York City is known for, from the Statue of Liberty and the Staten Island Ferry down to a MetroCard and a slice of pizza – which is why it is aptly named “I 🍕 NY.” Handmade glazed ceramic and subway tiles (sized 2” x 2”, 1” x 1”, and 4” x 4”) were used to create the most iconic imageries of New York City, all connected by a backdrop of boisterous clouds in the sky. To create the sky, 3” x 6” white subway tiles were used to form the clouds.

MAPEI on the jobsite

To complete the expansive ceramic mosaic wall tile project, a full system of MAPEI’s tile and stone installation systems was put to work. First, MAPEI’s Planitop 330 Fast was used to flash the wall and taper the transitions for a more fluid installation. 

CTEF Certified Tile Installers BRB Ceramic Tile Marble & Stone, Inc., of Point Pleasant, N.J., installed over 25,000 sq.ft. of tile, of various shades, sizes and colors. 

The mural consists of 135 colors (36 of which were custom developed by the tile makers) and three different shades of MAPEI’s Keracolor S grout (in colors 101 Rain, 19 Pearl Gray, 00 White and “LaGuardia,” a customized gray grout color unique to this project, provided only by MAPEI.

To create depth in the sky portion of the mural, MAPEI’s 101 Rain was used predominantly in the clearer sections of the sky; 19 Pearl Gray was inside all of the cloud area and acted as a transition color between darker shadows. The customized color “LaGuardia” is used in the darkest parts of shadows (generally underneath clouds) in the mosaic; while the 00 White was used alongside cut subway tiles in curved areas for a smooth transition. 

Over 25,000 sq. ft. of tile, of various shades, sizes, and colors was installed by BRB Ceramic Tile Marble & Stone, Inc., of Point Pleasant, N.J. From the first day the tile was installed in August 2019, to the final touch in May 2020, the work was consistent, significantly detailed and a big challenge for installers creating this seamless design continuity.

Four internationally-recognized artists (Laura Owens, Sarah Sze, Sabine Hornig, Jeppe Hein) collaborated on the project. The mural itself was designed by artist Laura Owens and features over 75 iconic images of New York City. 

MAPEI’s Type 1 tile adhesive was use to set the tile, providing excellent adhesion, extended open time and low VOCs. This project also demonstrates MAPEI’s ability to design custom color grout creations, accompanied by a customized grout refresh color to match. MAPEI’s 100% silicone sealant, Mapesil™ T was chosen, offering excellent elongation, flexibility and aid in the prevention of mold and mildew.

The colossal work – installed entirely by hand, onsite, over the course of nine months – celebrates the history, culture and architecture of New York City.

LaGuardia Airport fully reopened in June of 2020, but due to restrictions from Covid-19, the travel season looked a lot different this year. The fantastical art gracing the walls is not only welcoming and comforting in these times, but also iconic, historic, and unique. It is a testament to the functionality of tile and the beauty that exists around us – even in a terminal at an airport. MAPEI is proud to now be a part of a colossal, and world record-breaking, mosaic art piece that will last for generations.

  LaGuardia Airport Mosaic Mural – Queens, New York, USA 
  Period of construction: 2019
  Year of MAPEI involvement: 2019
  MAPEI coordinator: Darin Shocker  
  Project owner: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
  General contractor: BRB Ceramic Tile, Marble & Stone
  Installer Company: BRB Ceramic Tile, Marble & Stone
  Project manager: Ed Connors
  Photographer: Virtual360NY
  Project size: 25,000 sq. ft mural
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