Guastavino Vault Replica

This model Guastavino tile vault is a half-scale reproduction of the original 1889 tile vault overhead in the Boston Public Library. Layers of thin ceramic tile are bonded with Portland cement mortar to create a thin, strong masonry shell. The shallow dome is supported by four arches on the edges. A herringbone pattern of glazed tile on the interior creates a decorative finish for the vault. The vault is left incomplete in the center in order to demonstrate the layered construction method in tiles.

This replica vault was designed and built by students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology working together with professional masons from the International Masonry Institute and the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers. The construction method follows the traditional technique of the Guastavino Company, with formwork used to support the edge arches and with minimal support for the vault during construction.

The tile materials were donated by the Boston Valley Terra Cotta Company, who make authentic reproduction Guastavino tiles today. The cement used in the mortar for the vault was donated by Waldo Brothers, a materials supply company who provided the cement for the construction of the original Guastavino vaults in the Boston Public Library.

-Associate Professor John A. Ochsendorf