The Guastavino Project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is dedicated to documenting and preserving the tile vaulted works of the Guastavino Company. In the late 19th and early 20th century, Rafael Guastavino Moreno and his son Rafael Guastavino Exposito were responsible for designing tile vaults in nearly a thousand buildings around the world, of which more than 600 survive to the present day. The remaining buildings are found in more than 30 U.S. states, and include major landmarks such as the Ellis Island Registry Hall, the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Terminal, and the Boston Public Library.
This page provides resources and further information on the company's work. Please contact us with questions or contributions.
Columbia Professor George Collins estimated that around 100 buildings in the Boston area were constructed by the R. Guastavino Company from its earliest work in the 1880's to the end of the company in 1962. Thus far, this effort to search out these buildings has revealed about 65 buildings, both extant and destroyed.
Guastavino Company documents, salvaged by professor Collins and now in the Collins-Guastavino archive at Columbia University, refer to many more. The archive lists every reference in the company's internal documents, drawings and correspondence. As such, the archive lists a number close to Professor Collins estimate. However, many of these references are incomplete and do not necessarily mean that the company worked on the job. They may refer to a job the company did not complete, was not hired for or only provided consultation.
Using Boston area entries in the Collins-Guastavino Archive as a starting point, we began the search for buildings by name and sometimes address throughout the city. This was simple for longstanding institutions like Harvard University but became more challenging for warehouses, office buildings and churches and temples which may have hosted several congregations over time.
Depending on the particular item in the archive, we could correlate those items, such as photographs, and detailed correspondence to real buildings in the Boston area and confirm whether the company had a role in the construction. As such, visual confirmation is the most commonly used means of attribution. The absolutely unique method of vault construction used by the company can be recognized quite easily, even when they used varied tile patterns. In the case where tile patterns are obscured by plaster or other ceiling applique, often the presence of an arch, two three or four tiles thick was enough to raise curiosity even if positive confirmation is impossible by archives or investigating the structure physically.