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“Palaces for the People: Guastavino and the Art of Structural Tile” : Slideshow

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

© Michael Freeman Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York/Museum of City of New York
Bernard Levy Houses. Bernard Levy, an acomplished real estate broker in Manhattan, hired Guastavino as the architect for a series of row houses (pictured here) on the West Side in 1885 and 1886.

The exhibition “Palaces for the People: Guastavino and the Art of Structural Tile,” is on view at the Museum of the City of New York March 26-September 7, 2014.

© Michael Freeman Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York/Museum of City of New York
Entrance vaults at the Riverside Church in Manhattan by the Guastavino Company.

The Guastavino Company was able to integrate its vaulting into the steel framing, so that the loads were shared between the two systems. Though this made the vaulting seem decorative rather than essential, the vaulting was in fact load bearing and part of the building's structural system.

The exhibition “Palaces for the People: Guastavino and the Art of Structural Tile,” is on view at the Museum of the City of New York March 26-September 7, 2014.

© Michael Freeman Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York
Riverside Church.

Quadripartite Gothic vaults in Akoutstolith at the Riverside Church in Manhattan. Visually, it is impossible to tell that the completed nave of the Riverside Church is framed in steel. The Guastavino Company was able to integrate its vaulting into the steel framing, so that the loads were shared between the two systems. Though this made the vaulting seem decorative rather than essential, the vaulting was in fact load bearing and part of the building's structural system, demonstrating the Guastavino Company's remarkable ability to marry art and engineering.

The exhibition “Palaces for the People: Guastavino and the Art of Structural Tile,” is on view at the Museum of the City of New York March 26-September 7, 2014.

St. Paul's Chapel at Columbia University is one of the earliest buildings designed by I. N. Phelps Stokes, an architect who had studied at Columbia and at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. The spiral staircase was designed by the Guastavino Company and has served as the visual focal point, as well as a form of structural stability, for the chapel since. 

The exhibition “Palaces for the People: Guastavino and the Art of Structural Tile,” is on view at the Museum of the City of New York March 26-September 7, 2014.

The ornate vaults supported on tile arches at the Elephant House at the Bronx Zoo, designed by the Guastavino Company, represent a fertile period in American Architecture; a time when structures were built to look grand for man or beast.

The exhibition “Palaces for the People: Guastavino and the Art of Structural Tile,” is on view at the Museum of the City of New York March 26-September 7, 2014.

The Della Robbia Room of the Vanderbilt Hotel in New York is considered one of the most outstanding examples of decorative Guastavino vaulting ever built. Working with architects Warren and Wetmore, Guastavino Jr. developed a series of shallow vaults on arches,  which were layered with ceramic pieces that created a relief of color.

The exhibition “Palaces for the People: Guastavino and the Art of Structural Tile,” is on view at the Museum of the City of New York March 26-September 7, 2014.

Throughout their projects, both Guastavino Sr. and Jr. gave valuable insight and advice to architects who were unfamiliar with the technical aspects of construction. Their solutions provided creative and permanent monuments, such as a series of paviliions like the Prospect Park Tennis Shelter in Brooklyn, which was designed by the architectural firm Helmle and Huberty. 

The exhibition “Palaces for the People: Guastavino and the Art of Structural Tile,” is on view at the Museum of the City of New York March 26-September 7, 2014.

The Oyster Bar in Grand Central Terminal is a mature work of the Guastavino Company. Through a series of adjacent vaults, Guastavino Jr. created a space that is once intimate and expansive. The use of only one type of tile provides a uniform finish across a dozen soaring vaults.The legendary durability of Guastavino vaults is also evident here. When a fire struck the Oyster Bar in 1997, thousands of tiles were delaminated, however, the structural integrity of the vaults was not comprised.

The exhibition “Palaces for the People: Guastavino and the Art of Structural Tile,” is on view at the Museum of the City of New York March 26-September 7, 2014.

The Ellis Island Registry Room was originally constructed in 1900 by architects Boring and Tilton with a plaster ceiling, and was reconstructed with a beautiful tile ceiling by the Guastavino Company in 1917; literally becoming a palace for the people of sorts, where millions of immigrants passed through. However, the vaulting wasn't just stunning, it was also structurally stable. When Ellis Island was abandoned for decades and its buildings fell into terrible disrepair, the Guastavino vault remained completely intact.

The exhibition “Palaces for the People: Guastavino and the Art of Structural Tile,” is on view at the Museum of the City of New York March 26-September 7, 2014.

Guastavino Jr.'s Mediterranean-style villa, which was designed by Guastavino Jr. and his friend architect Henry Hornbostel, has an irregular plan and features eccentric Gothic and Romanesque details and large arched windows facing the water. The residence, which is on Bay Shore, Long Island was built almost entirely in tile vaulting as is evident from these tile vaulted stairs. The usage of tile served as a testament to Guastavino Jr.'s longstanding interest in ceramics, his immense private  tile collection, and the level of the family's wealth.

The exhibition “Palaces for the People: Guastavino and the Art of Structural Tile,” is on view at the Museum of the City of New York March 26-September 7, 2014.