Since the time of ancient Rome, architects, engineers, and builders have struggled with the problem of building domed ceilings over large spaces. No one was more skilled at this than the Rafael Guastavino family, a father and son team of Spanish immigrants who oversaw the construction of thousands of spectacular thin-tile vaults across the United States between the 1880s and the 1950s. These versatile, strong, and fireproof vaults were built by Guastavino in more than two hundred major buildings in Manhattan, and in hundreds more across the country, including Grand Central Terminal, Carnegie Hall, the Biltmore Estate, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the Registry Hall at Ellis Island, and many major university buildings. Their patented vaulting techniques made it possible for Beaux-Arts architects such as McKim, Mead and White to create the bold, broad spaces that made them famous. Yet, because the Guastavinos served only as contractors on these projects, their firm's accomplishments have remained relatively unknown to the public. Guastavino Vaulting traces the development of the remarkable construction technology from its Mediterranean roots to its highest achievements in the United States. This long overdue first monograph features archival images, drawings, and beautiful new color photography showcasing the most incredible Guastavino vaulted spaces. An extensive appendix lists the addresses of all known extant Guastavino vaults, over six hundred masterpieces small and large.
John Ochsendorf is an engineer and educator specializing in the history and technology of historic structures. He was the first engineer to be awarded a Rome Prize (2007) and the first structural engineer to be awarded a MacArthur Fellowship (2008). He currently teaches architecture and civil and environmental engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
"An absorbing and meticulously researched book that brings to life father-and-son Guastavino and their intimate involvement with landmarks of Beaux-Arts architecture. Beautiful photos by Michael Freeman add visual drama to an already fascinating story... A must-read for architects, historians, structural engineers, and any professional who might be called upon to restore a Guastavino installation."
The Boston Globe:
"American architects of the late 19th and early 20th centuries would often leave empty spaces in their blueprints and simply write, Guastavino here....Guastavino part architect, part engineer was particularly famous for his beautifully crafted, structurally powerful, tiled arched vaults. Once you identify some the magnificent arched vaults inside the entrance to the Boston Public Library in Copley Square, the portico covering Plymouth Rock, the Oyster Bar inside New Yorks Grand Central Terminal youll start seeing them all over."