WS4 Hands-on Construction of “Guastavino” Thin Tile Vaults

Two-Day Workshop

Friday, October 11, 7:00 am - 5:30 pm
Saturday, October 12, 7:00 am - 5:30 pm

clientuploads/2013_conference_art/P1080599.jpgSponsored in part by A. Ottavino Corporation, Vertical Access LLC, Boston Valley Terra Cotta and a grant from NCPTT Workshop.

"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.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Lay out and initiate a simple tile vault
  2. Mix mortars to appropriate consistency and quantities to install both soffit and structural tile wythes
  3. Set soffit and structural tile to progress through multiple-wythe construction
  4. Experience the sequence of construction, including the breaking of joints
  5. Strike and clean joints, particularly in the soffit layer of tile
  6. Develop an appreciation for the craftsmanship that has been lost since the construction of vaults in so many important buildings across the United States

Fee: $575
Skill Level: Novice, though some trowel skills will be helpful.
Fee Includes: Breakfast, lunch, handouts, materials, transportation
Location: Ottavino Stone
Transportation: Subway
Dress Code: Casual (jeans) with good walking shoes
Recommended Equipment: Notebook and camera
Maximum Attendance: 60
Handicapped Accessibility: Ask APT for details
Continuing Education Credits: 13


  • Kent Diebolt, Founding Partner at Vertical Access LLC, has investigated a number of Guastavino Vaults in the United States and has researched and constructed vaults in Catalonia, Spain. He served as Program Chair for a one day symposium in 1998 entitled, “Preserving Historic Guastavino Tile Ceilings, Domes and Vaults,” which was sponsored by the New York Landmarks Conservancy and Columbia University with funding from the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (The Symposium Proceedings and all of Guastavino’s patents were published in APT Bulletin Vol. XXX, No. 4, 1999).


  • Mallory Taub is an Energy Specialist at Arup in San Francisco, where she develops green building strategies for new construction and collaborates on life cycle analysis research.  Mallory is a recent graduate of the M.S. Building Science program at UC Berkeley.  During her prior graduate study in architecture at MIT, she worked with John Ochsendorf whose interest in sustainability led to her passion for thin tile vaulting.  She worked with the MIT Masonry Research Group as a project manager for the design and construction of a thin tile vault in the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum in their triennial exhibition, Why Design Now?  Having collaborated on masonry vault projects in Boston, New York, Utah, Switzerland, and England, she is excited to share her skills and knowledge with at the APTI Conference.

  • Benjamin Ibarra-Sevilla is an Assistant Professor of Architecture and a Research Fellow at the Center for World Heritage Studies at the University of Minnesota. Benjamin is a registered architect in Mexico, and is a graduate of the Autonomous National University of Mexico and the University of Alcala de Henares, in Spain. Benjamin has conducted vaulting workshops with students at the University of Minnesota and at Dalhousie University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

  • David López López, Architect and PhD candidate in the Block Research Group at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, is a researcher who earned his M. Arch from the Technical University of Madrid and studied also at the Technical University of Berlin. He holds an Advanced Master in Building Technology and an Advanced Master in Structural Analysis of Historical Constructions from the Technical University of Catalonia (Spain) and the University of Minho (Portugal).

  • Marta Domènech Rodríguez, PhD candidate in the Architectural Design Department at Technical University of Catalonia (UPC), Spain, is an architect, teacher and researcher. She earned her M. Arch from the Technical University of Catalonia and also studied at the Technical University of Berlin. She holds an Advanced M. Arch. in Theory and Design from the School of Architecture of Madrid and she has been teaching in Barcelona at the UPC since 2011. 
  • Berta de Miguel has worked with Vertical Access as an architectural expert in historic buildings since 2011. She holds a BS in Architectural Engineering and a MS in Preservation and Conservation of Architectural Heritage, both from the Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain. Berta's professional background includes six years of architectural preservation in Cuba, Belgium and Spain. She has been the restoration site project manager on more than twenty landmarks, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site Cathedral of Teruel, the National Landmark Castle of Sagunto, and the Church of San Martin of Valencia; she worked as project manager for the restoration and reproduction of Catalan vaults and staircases at the Church of Socós in Jérica, Spain. Berta is based in New York City.                      

  • As of August 15: Professor John Ochsendorf is unable to participate in the Guastavino workshop, due to a scheduling conflict. Listen to NPR's Susan Stamberg interview John about the newly-opened National Building Museum exhibit on Guastavino (April 29, 2013).



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