Art & Architecture, #71a


  71a.  Rafael Guastavino (1842-1908).  Drawing for Dater House, Montecito, California. Pencil and colored pencil on tracing paper, (24.1 x 18.7 cm.), 1917. -- Avery Library, Drawings and Archives, The Guastavino Fireproof Construction Company/ George Collins Architectural Records & Drawings  (See fuller description below.)
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Rafael Guastavino was a Spanish émigré architect who brought to the United States a centuries-old vernacular method of building fireproof vaults and domes and adapted it to the steel-frame construction prevalent in this country. Although Guastavino practiced as an architect in Barcelona and in New York on his arrival, his career took an unexpected turn through his connection with Charles McKim and his work at the Boston Public Library in the late 1880s. It was at this building that Guastavino began to function primarily as a contractor building vaults and domes. His company, the Guastavino Fireproof Construction Company, under his leadership and that of his son, Rafael, Jr., was extremely prolific. By the time the firm closed its door in 1962, they had built vaults, domes, and other architectural elements in approximately 1,000 buildings in the United States. Their best known works include the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Terminal and the dome at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

The Guastavinos worked frequently with Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, the architect of notable Gothic churches and the Nebraska State Capitol. Goodhue had an interest in Mexican architecture, which he put to use in his designs for the Panama-Pacific exposition in San Diego in 1915. These tiles were designed for the Dater house in Montecito, California, but were also used in San Diego and at the Goodhue hotel in Colon, Panama. Goodhue, more than any other architect the Guastavinos worked with, took advantage of the decorative possibilities of the surfaces of the Guastavino vaults and domes.

The Guastavino papers were saved through the efforts of the late George R. Collins, Professor of Art History and donated to the University in 1963. Professor Collins served as custodian and guide to the papers until his retirement in 1988, when the archives were transferred to the Avery Library.