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Palaces for the People: Guastavino and America’s Great Public Spaces
Boston Public Library, Copley Square
September 28, 2012–February 24, 2013

Guastavino tile vaults graced the interiors of hundreds of North American buildings in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, including major national landmarks such as the Boston Public Library (BPL). Renowned for their durability and beauty, the compound curves of Guastavino vaulting have impressed architects, builders, and the general public for more than 100 years.

Rafael Guastavino Moreno and his son, Rafael Guastavino Exposito, emigrated from Barcelona in 1881 and then contributed to the design and construction of more than 1,000 major buildings across the United States, including university buildings, churches, museums, and railroad stations. By the turn of the 20th century, the Guastavino name was known to every major architect and construction firm in America. Today, millions of people pass through and marvel at these great public spaces each year, but few know that a single immigrant family helped to create them.

The BPL’s upcoming exhibition on the Guastavino Company and its architectural legacy will use new color photography, historical artifacts, and interactive multimedia to encourage visitors to raise their eyes to these extraordinary Spanish-tile vaults. A full-scale reconstruction of a Guastavino vault will offer a hands-on understanding of the technique, and a new website will allow users to identify and contribute content on Guastavino buildings around the country. In addition, a one-day symposium on Guastavino vaulting will be held at MIT on November 3, 2012. After closing in Boston, the exhibit will then travel to the National Building Museum in Washington, DC, and the Museum of the City of New York in the spring and fall of 2013.