Guastavino documentary “El Architecto de Nueva York” wins Cannes Corporate Media & TV Award

October 28, 2016

Title screen shot from “El Architecto de Nueva York”

The biographical documentary, El Architecto de Nueva York,  was honored with a Golden Dolphin Award at the Cannes Corporate Media & TV Awards on October 13, 2016. Directed by Eva Vizcarra and produced by RTVE/Endora Producciones, the film won in the category of History and Civilization.

The accomplished life of Rafael Guastavino, an architect born in Valencia, Spain is the focus of this documentary.  He emmigrated to the USA from Spain in 1881 and proceeded to design and build some of the most recognizable architectural gems of Manhattan – yet his name is still largely unrecognized.  This award-winning film is a celebration of his life and brings long overdue awareness and enlightenment about his contributions to the architecture in cities worldwide.

The Vertical Access Connection

Kent Diebolt and Berta de Miguel guide viewers through Grand Central Station. Screen shot from “El Architecto de Nueva York”.

Kent Diebolt, and Berta de Miguel of Vertical Access are studied in the history of Rafael Guastavino – his vault construction techniques and his many architectural structures throughout the United States. Both appear in the film guiding viewers through iconic examples of his work in New York City such as Grand Central Terminal, the Guastavino Oyster Bar, Ellis Island and more.  In 2013, Kent and Berta organized a hands-on tile vaulting construction workshop at the Association for Preservation Technology (APT) Annual Conference.

Rafael Guastavino movie, “El arquitecto de Nueva York” premiered in Valencia, Spain

April 12, 2016

On March 1, 2016, Kent Diebolt, founding partner of Vertical Access, and Berta de Miguel, Metropolitan New York branch office manager traveled to Valencia to join 500 people at the world premier of the documentary film, “El arquitecto de Nueva York”.

Lunch on the beach with friends, family and colleagues in Valencia, the day of the Premier. Right to left: María Alcalá, Fernando Vegas, Camilla Mileto, Kent Diebolt, Arturo Zaragozá, Gabriel Pardo, Berta de Miguel

Lunch on the beach with friends, family and colleagues in Valencia, the day of the Premier.
Right to left: María Alcalá, Fernando Vegas, Camilla Mileto, Kent Diebolt, Arturo Zaragozá, Gabriel Pardo, Berta de Miguel

A celebration of the lives and careers of the Rafael Guastavinos – father and son – the film, produced by Endora Productions and produced and directed by Eva Vizcarra, aims to get the public to know and admire this largely unknown architect.

The documentary explores the life and professional achievements of Rafael Guastavino Senior through masterfully designed special effects and 3D recreations, images and testimonials by different persons professionally or personally involved with the architect. Kent and Berta are two of those professionals that participated in the film, sharing their passion and knowledge of the Guastavino legacy.

Right to left: Berta de Miguel, Eva Vizcarra, Kent Diebolt

Right to left: Berta de Miguel, Eva Vizcarra, Kent Diebolt

Filmed in the United States and Spain, El arquitecto de Nueva York is a very well documented, written and executed film, intended to allow the general public in both countries to humanly and professionally know one of the most important figures in the history of architecture of the United States. Eva Vizcarra builds such depth of respect and passion for Rafael Guastavino’s achievements and humanity, that the viewer feels like a friend of his at the end of the 90 minute documentary film. A one-hour version of the film will be broadcast by the public Spanish television TVE2 on April 15th 2016, and a longer version will be projected in cinemas across Spain after that date. The release date for the English version in the United States remains unknown, but we will keep you posted.







Watch the film’s trailer here.


Learn more about Rafael Guastavino

The Valencian Architect and Constructor Who Built (Quite a Bit of) New York

How One Family Built America’s Public Palaces

Recuperando a Guastavino: el qrquitecto de Nueva York’ fue valenciano (y es un desconocideo)

APT 2013 NYC – The Guastavino Vault Workshop

November 1, 2013

During the recent Association for Preservation Technology (APT) conference – APT NYC 2013 Preserving the Metropolis – Kent Diebolt, Kevin Dalton and Berta de Miguel, from Vertical Access, organized a Hands-on Construction of “Guastavino” Thin Tile Vaults workshop. Other faculty fellows worked in conjunction with VA members: Benjamín Ibarra, Assistant Professor of Architecure UT Austin, Mallory Taub, an Energy Specialist at Arup in San Francisco, David López López, Architect and PhD candidate in the Block Research Group at ETH Zurich, Switzerland and Marta Domènech Rodríguez, PhD candidate in the Architectural Design Department at Technical University of Catalonia (UPC), Spain. The team was assisted by Ken and David Follet, from Precon Logstrat, LLC, “consultants with tools”.vault-dwgs

The workshop consisted of building two small tiled vaults: a groin vault and a barrel vault with lunettes. The vaults, of approximately 6×6 feet were built with tiles measuring 7 3/8″ x 3 3/4″ x 5/8″ donated by Boston Valley Terracotta.

The venue for the event was the atelier of Ottavino Stone Corporation, kindly donated by that same corporation, which is celebrating their centennial this year. Additional funding came from the National Center for Preservation Training and Technology through APTI and Vertical Access LLC. We cannot thank our sponsors enough for their support!

The attendees were an interesting group of 21 people from different nationalities and backgrounds such as architects, material specialists, engineers, architectural conservators, preservationists and project managers from companies and organizations such as VanNostrad Architects, UNESCO, Consigli Construction, Superstructures, Built Environment Evolution, Washington National Cathedral, Williamsburg Preservation Tec, Murray Engineering, Alternativist/Urban Earth, Evergreene Architectural Arts, Old Structures Engineering, Bennett Preservation Engineering, Atkinson-Noland & Associates, FGMDA Fournier Gersovitz Moss Drolet & Associates, Goldsmith Borgal & Company Architects, Heritage Building Conservator, Robert Silman Associates, Building Conservation Associates and and Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates.

The workshop lasted two full days. During the fist day, the forms for the arches were set in place, plumbed and fixed. Next, the tiles of the arches were set with plaster of Paris for the first layer, and mortar cement on the second and third layers. Once the arches were completed, the webs of the vaults started to close the vaults from the arches to the center.

The first layer was set with plaster of Paris due to the rapid setting time (10-15 seconds approximately). During the second day, once the first layer was finished, the attendees, divided in two teams, started and finished the second layer, set up with mortar cement, which confers strength to the structure.

By the end of the second day, everybody took turns standing on the vaults. We all learned a lot from each other and gained an appreciation for the skill that it took to build these full-scale vaults. Finally, and most importantly, we all had a wonderful time.IMGP9925


> Watch a video news story about Rafael Guastavino that includes time-lapse footage from this workshop and interviews with Berta de Miguel and Kent Diebolt. The piece was produced by RTVE, a public broadcasting station from Spain.

 A portion of our annual contribution to 1% for the Planet helped support this event . Read a short post about how VA got involved with One Percent  Print.

The Cathedral: The Next 100, or 5000, Years

October 31, 2013

A structure planned to “stand with practically no visible sign of change for 5,000 years.”  That assessment, by Perry Borchers, was published in the Ohio State Engineer journal in 1940, soon after west façade of The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine was completed and just before the entire length of the Cathedral was consecrated in 1941.[1]  In fact, much of the planned Cathedral structure had not yet been completed at that point, including the two towers on the west side, the north and south transepts and the spire above the crossing.  However, eight days after the Cathedral was opened for the first time from the main portal on the west to the end of the apse on the east, and almost fifty years after construction of the Cathedral began in 1892, the United States entered World War II and work on the Cathedral came to a halt.  Construction resumed in the 1970s, and in the 1980s about fifty feet of height was added to the south tower.

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The Cathedral, situated in Morningside Heights in Manhattan on land acquired by the Episcopal Diocese in 1887, was originally designed by George Lewis Heins and Christopher Grant LaFarge in 1888.  Construction of the apse began in 1892 and the large central dome, constructed by the Guastavino Company, was completed in 1909: the largest dome ever built by the firm.  After Heins died, Ralph Adams Cram was hired in 1911 to replace LaFarge as the architect of the Cathedral.  Construction of the nave, which Cram designed in a Gothic revival style, began in 1916 with the first finish stone on the south façade laid in 1925.  Cram also designed the west façade of the Cathedral with its flanking towers and the gothic ornamentation for the original apse.  The exterior cladding of the nave and towers is granite, with limestone used in the interior, the tracery of the stained glass windows at the nave and clerestory, and for trim and figurative carvings at the west facade.

Although the Cathedral is by anyone’s estimation a grand and magnificent structure, Borchers’ prediction that it remain unchanged for 5,000 years was a bit of hyperbole.  Like any building, even one constructed by the finest craftsmen of the day using durable materials and proven engineering systems, the Cathedral is subject to the same deleterious effects of water, fire and earth movement as any other building.  In fact, all of these forces have affected the structure significantly over the past 100 years.

A structure such as the Cathedral requires constant maintenance, upkeep and attention.  Currently the Cathedral of St. John the Divine is undertaking a study of the entire structure.  The design team is led by structural engineer Robert Silman Associates and includes Building Conservation Associates and Vertical Access.  As part of the study, the team has been performing hands-on investigations of the exterior masonry, interior wall surfaces and ceiling; and evaluation of the condition of the exterior and interior materials and structure.  The information gained from this study will be used to prioritize repair projects and plan for future work on the Cathedral, so that it may retain its magnificence for the next 100, or even 5,000, years.

[1] Perry Borchers, “The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York,” Ohio State Engineer, vol. 23, no. 6 (May, 1940, 8-10).

Photos from 2-Day Guastavino Workshop at APT NYC 2013

October 14, 2013

Great two-day workshop at APT NYC 2013 sponsored in part by A. Ottavino Corporation, Vertical Access LLC, Boston Valley Terra Cotta and a grant from NCPTT Workshop.

See photos on the Association for Preservation Technology Facebook page.

Under the Dome: Rafael Guastavino’s Life in North Carolina

August 22, 2013

Listen to Nan Graham’s commentary on about the life of architect Rafael Guastavino in North Carolina, and how he became an “accidental southerner” after constructing arches for the famous Bilmore Mansion.  He would spend the rest of his life living in the Smokey Mountains, during which time he designed the Basilica of St. Lawrence in Asheville – also his final resting place.

Inside dome of the Basilica of St. Lawrence, and final resting place of Raphael Guastavino (d.1908) in Asheville, North Carolina.

The Tile House by Rafael Guastavino Jr. and Hands-on Tile Vault Building Workshop

July 26, 2013

Tiled home built by Rafael Guastavino Jr., in Bay Shore, NY

An article in theNew York Times (7/24, by Penelope Green), tells the story of how NYC mayoral candidate George McDonald purchased and now lives in the unique Tile House in Bay Shore, NY.   Here’s a brief excerpt …

“The Tile House, its local nickname, is an eccentric, Moorish-looking brick folly on the south shore of Long Island, built by Rafael Guastavino Jr., the son of the architect Rafael Guastavino Sr., who developed the tile-vaulting system used in the Oyster Bar, the Whispering Gallery and in hundreds of other spaces, including Carnegie Hall and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

Begun in 1912, when the younger Guastavino was working on Grand Central, the house is a riot of tile work: his own instantly recognizable herringbone arches, supplemented with European tiles he brought back from a honeymoon tour. When he died in 1950, he left the place to his daughter, Louise, who sold it eight years later (she died in 2004). By 2005, it was for sale, and on the Preservation League of New York State’s “Seven to Save” list. A couple from Florida who are in the business of buying and restoring old houses bought it then, saving it from a developer who wanted to tear it down. Their renovations included removing the decades-old trees that were growing in a garage.”

Learn how to build a Guastavino vault at the APT NYC 2013 Conference - Preserving the Metropolis

Learn how to build a Guastavino vault at the APT NYC 2013 Conference – Preserving the Metropolis

Learn about the Guastavino Method in a Two-Day Workshop / October 11, 12, 2013

APT NYC 2013 Conference  – Preserving the Metropolis

“American architects of the late 19th and early 20th centuries would often leave empty spaces in their blueprints and simply write, ‘Guastavino here.’ They had faith that Rafael Guastavino would create elegant, highly functional spaces to grace their buildings. Guastavino — part architect, part engineer — was particularly famous for his beautifully crafted, structurally powerful, tiled arched vaults.” (An excerpt – read the full article from the Boston Globe.)

Participants will have the opportunity to construct a variety of simple “Guastavino” vaults. The morning of the first day will involve a demonstration of the construction, after which, teams of approximately six participants will have the opportunity to undertake “hands-on” construction of these vaults. Vaults will be constructed of single, double and triple wythes of tile, and may be load tested at a later date.

Sponsored in part by a grant from NCPTT Workshop.

Conference and Workshop Registration and More Info

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