Rafael Guastavino: The Architect of New York

Rafael Guastavino Moreno, born in Valencia in 1842, is one of Spain's most international architects. Although European by origin, his architectural legacy is scattered throughout the United States, leaving indelible marks in the history of North American architecture.

Guastavino spent his youth in Valencia before moving to Barcelona to study at the School of Master Builders. It was in Barcelona where he began to make a name for himself, completing notable works such as the Batlló textile factory and La Massa Theatre in Vilassar de Dalt. His exceptional talent was recognized by leaders of the Catalan modernism movement like Domènech i Montaner.

Guastavino and the Tiled Vault

Rafael Guastavino's greatest contribution to architecture was the innovative technique of the tiled vault, also known as "Volta catalana." This technique, rooted in the Mediterranean and influenced by Arab architecture, involves covering ceilings with flatly placed bricks, bonded by cement. This technique not only reduced costs but was also fire-resistant, an essential feature at a time when fires in cities like Chicago and Boston were a constant concern.

Guastavino's Works in New York

With a rising career, Guastavino found himself in the middle of a financial scandal that led him to emigrate to the United States at the age of 39. Upon his arrival in New York in 1881, the city was in the midst of a construction boom, and Guastavino's technique found a home in a country obsessed with fire resistance following the devastating fires in Chicago and Boston. 

His first major project in the United States was the Boston Public Library, which catapulted his name to fame.

Under the banner of his company, Guastavino Fireproof Construction Company, Rafael Guastavino and his son, Rafael Guastavino Jr., built over 1,000 buildings. Among their most famous works are Harvard University, Berkeley, Yale, the Metropolitan Museum of New York, the Queensboro Bridge, and the Oyster Bar of the Grand Central Station. Such was his impact that, upon his death, The New York Times dubbed him "The Architect of New York."

Rafael Guastavino, along with his son Rafael Guastavino Jr., left an architectural legacy in the United States that endures to this day. From Valencia to New York, his influence and his tiled vault technique have left an indelible mark on the history of architecture. His life and work are a testament to the talent, innovation, and ambition of an architect who, despite challenges, left a legacy that continues to inspire generations of architects worldwide.

Books about Guastavino

The fascinating life and work of Rafael Guastavino have inspired many authors to document his legacy. Over the years, several books about Guastavino have been published, offering a detailed view of his contribution to global architecture.

Our book about Rafael Guastavino originates from the research conducted by Mar Loren during her doctoral thesis and can be seen below.

Author's books
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