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Guastavino vaulting : the art of structural…

Guastavino vaulting : the art of structural tile (edition 2010)

by John Allen Ochsendorf, Michael Freeman

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Title:Guastavino vaulting : the art of structural tile
Authors:John Allen Ochsendorf
Other authors:Michael Freeman
Info:New York : Princeton Architectural Press, c2010.
Collections:Your library
Tags:non-fiction, biography, Spain, New England, business, architecture, 2012

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Guastavino Vaulting: The Art of Structural Tile by John Ochsendorf



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Became interested in this book after attending an exhibit on Guastavino at the Boston Public Library. Author/Architect John Ochsendorf's beautifully detailed effort seeks to resurrect Guastavino Sr. And Jr. And their company from relative obscurity and elevate them to their rightful place in the architectural pantheon of master craftsman, talented businessmen and influential and innovative designers. Guastavino, Sr. (1842 - 1908) received his training in Spain, where he was acclaimed for his work on a major factory building In his youthful mid-20's. Guastavino updated old Catalan masonry techniques in creating vaults and domes I his design. Immigrating to the United States in 1881 with Rafael Jr., he and his company soon caught the attention of the most influential and talented architects of the day.

The late 19th and 20th centuries were times of an explosion of civic building. Of primary concern were cost, safety ad aesthetics. Guastavino's tiled vaulting was lightweight, thin, quick to construct without need of extensive scaffolding and fireproof. His first major commission was with the renowned architectural firm of Mead, McKim & White on the now iconic Boston Public Library. This commission soon lead to multiple others. Over the course of R. Guastavino Company's 75 year existence, they were involved in thousands of projects, including Grand Central Terminal (including my favorite Oyster Bar), Carnegie Hall, the Biltmore Estate, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the Nebraska State Capitol and countless churches, auditoria, and public spaces. Between them, Rafael Sr. and Jr. Had countless patents relating to tiled vaulting, and acoustical materials. Continually innovative, the firm constantly broke new ground in the use of tile in dome construction. As Ochsendorf notes, the new vaulting system was vastly superior of other steel and brick structures, allowing architects to safely design soaring spaces at a fraction of the cost and on time. The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, for instance, only took 15 weeks to construct. Not only practical and safe, the tile systems were aesthetically pleasing with the various tile patterns. Astutely, the company soon started manufacturing their own tile, thus controlling every aspect of their own projects.

Why aren't the Guastavinos well known now? Ochsendorf credit this to a number of factors. These include the rise of the International Style which eschewed all ornamentation (even apparently that which was structurally honest), increasing costs of a labor-intensive method, and the development of cheap thin concrete shells. Further, more stringent building codes required professional structural engineers to be able to quantify and explicate thinks such as acceptable structural loads. Given the curved geometry, their mathematical skills were not up to the task. Indeed, I imagine even today, most structural engineers would find the task daunting. Nevertheless, the Guastavino system has proven amazingly resilient -- out of thousands of buildings, none has suffered collapse of the tiled vaulting and domes.

This is a beautiful volume, with gorgeous pictures, black-and-white drawings, and ample endnotes and bibliography. The scholarship is quite evident, but with very accessible prose. Whether you plan intensive study or more leisurely perusal of the stunning examples of the Guastavinos' craft, this book is a must-have. Highly recommended. ( )
  michigantrumpet | Dec 24, 2012 |
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