Guastavino tiles–a design technique for thin-tile structural vaulting brought to New York at the end of the 19th century by Spanish architect and builder Rafael Guastavino and his son Rafael Jr.–can be seen at 250 locations throughout the city. Most of these spots have grand public purposes, such as Grand Central, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, or the Municipal Building. But one locale has gained famed for its very un-grand function as the home of a grocery store.
The Food Emporium underneath the Queensboro Bridge has occupied one half of the Guastavino-tiled arcade known as Bridgemarket since 1999. This Saturday at 5:00 p.m., though, it will close its doors for good, according to Bloomberg, which leaves the fate of the historic interior up in the air.
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The Manhattan Municipal Building toward the end of construction in 1913, via Shorpy
When we think of the city’s early skyscrapers, landmarks like the Woolworth Building and Flatiron Building usually come to mind. But there’s an equally fascinating and beautiful icon that often gets overlooked–the 1914 Manhattan Municipal Building. One of New York’s first skyscrapers, the 580-foot Beaux Arts masterpiece influenced civic construction throughout the country and served as the prototype for Chicago’s Wrigley Building and Cleveland’s Terminal Tower, among others.
A new video from Blueprint NYC (produced by the Office of NYCMedia) takes us into this historic structure, discussing everything from the reason for construction (after the 1898 consolidation of the five boroughs, there was a need for increased governmental office space) to interesting factoids (the building was designed from a rejected sketch of Grand Central Terminal Station) to the turn-of-the-century innovations that made this unique structure possible.
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Photo by John-Paul Palescandolo
In New York, many of the grand Beaux-Arts masterpieces — Grand Central Terminal, the Queensboro Bridge, the City Hall subway station, Columbia University, and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine — have one striking element in common: Guastavino tiles. Spanish architect and builder Rafael Guastavino and his son Rafael Jr. brought with them to New York at the end of the 19th century a Mediterranean design technique from the 14th century for thin-tile structural vaulting. The expertly engineered and architecturally beautiful vaults were lightweight, fireproof, load-bearing, cost-efficient, and able to span large interior areas.
Today there are over 250 Guastavino works in New York City alone, not to mention the 1,000 throughout the U.S. The Museum of the City of New York’s current exhibition, Palaces for the People: Guastavino and the Art of Structural Tile, explores Guastavinos’s spaces in New York and showcases “never-before-seen objects, artifacts, photographs, and documents.” We couldn’t help doing a little Guastavino exploration ourselves, and have put together some of our favorite tiled sites that you can actually visit.
See our picks right this way