Susan Stamberg explores the exhibition Palaces for the People: Guastavino and America's Great Public Spaces, which is now open at the National Building Museum in Washington D.C. "Photographs, diagrams, drawings and scale models show the beauty and breadth of the work of the Guastavino family — some one-thousand vaults and domes and ceilings in 40 states."
"Not only did the Guastavinos help build many great American public spaces between 1881 and 1962, they also revolutionized American architectural design and construction," says the exhibit description. "Their patented vaulting techniques made it possible for the greatest architects of the day to create the breathtakingly beautiful spaces that represent the nation’s highest ideals and aspirations."
"What Rafael and Rafael Guastavino did — yes, dad and son had the same first name — was to take Old World building techniques they'd learned in Barcelona in the 1800s and update them for the New World," explains Stamberg. "They were like master masons transported here from the Gothic era, men who knew how to build the correct shapes to make their spaces stand up and stay incredibly durable, strong and long-lasting."