Image courtesy of Halstead
A block of 78th Street on the Upper West Side, between the Museum of Natural History and Amsterdam Avenue, has more going for it than just colorful brownstones; it also has a colorful architectural secret. The block’s display of Moorish brick and stone buildings shares a history with some of the city’s notable public spaces. Known as “Guastavino Row,” its decorative and altogether charming townhouses were designed by noted 19th-century architect Rafael Guastavino, famed for his beautiful and expertly engineered vaulted, tiled ceilings. Recently, a small but lovely first-floor studio at 120 West 78th street listed for $359,000, and it boasts a beautiful ceiling that, according to the listing, was one of Guastavino’s iconic designs. Read more
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