© 2019 Guastavino Alliance

RAFAEL GUASTAVINO AND HIS WORK

1842 - Born in Valencia, Spain, March 1.
1860s-1870s - Training as an architect worked in Barcelona developing engineering principles for the use of the cohesive masonry, recognizing its potential for spanning greater areas.
1872 - Graduated from the Escuela de Arquitectura in Barcelona.
1876 - Earned Medal of Merit for architectural plans submitted to the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition.
1881- Emigrated to America with youngest son, Rafael, Jr., seeking better building materials and more job opportunities.
1882 - Published drawings of furniture and interior decoration in the Spanish Renaissance style in a new magazine, Decorator and Furnisher, which led to a submission of the winning design for the Progress Club in New York City.
1883 - Bought lots in upper Manhattan and built two apartment buildings incorporating his tile construction.
1884 - Moved to Black Mountain, NC, with wife Francesca, after being hired by George Vanderbilt to work on the Biltmore Estate.
1885 - Secured first of many patents for the vaulting system of construction.
1889 - Founded Guastavino Fireproof Construction Company, promoting his vaulting technique, a refinement of the fireproof construction system he first used in Spain.
1890 - Built his "Spanish Castle" on the 1,000 acre tract just south of Black Mountain with a tile plant consisting of a kiln and tall chimney on the property.
1891 - Had offices in New York, Boston, Milwaukee, Chicago and Providence, Rhode Island.
1900 - Opened a tile manufacturing factory in Woburn, Massachusetts.
1905 - Designed and oversaw the building of the Basilica of St. Lawrence in Asheville, NC
1908 - Stricken by lung congestion and kidney failure; died February 1; entombed in the Chapel of Our Lady in the Basilica of St. Lawrence of Asheville, NC.

Guastavino's company participated in the construction of about 1,000 buildings from 1883 to 1908. Buildings include:

  • St. John the Divine Church, New York City

  • The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

  • Carnegie Tech, Pittsburgh, PA

  • New York City's Grand Central Station vaulted arches

  • New York Public Library

  • Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

From Gale Encyclopedia of Biography:
Each year, thousands of tourists visit New York City and its historic structures such as Grand Central Terminal, Carnegie Hall, and the Great Hall on Ellis Island. Most tourists are not aware that the man responsible for these famous buildings was Rafael Guastavino (1842-1908), a Spanish immigrant who integrated centuries-old construction techniques into modern architecture. Guastavino left his personal stamp on the city. His work - with its great spans of curving, expressive spaces - combines grace with sturdy, enduring construction.
  

  

He, and later his son, installed the trademark masonry floors, ceilings, vaults, domes, stairs and acoustic products in churches, museums, railroad stations, state capitols, libraries, concert halls, government and university buildings, private homes, and highway structures. In all, his firm created nearly 400 structures in New York City.


The tiles can be found in several famous churches, including St. Bartholomew and St. Thomas in New York City and the Duke University Chapel in Durham, North Carolina.