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Rafael Guastavino Moreno: The Valencian who conquered New York with tiles and charm

Updated: Feb 21


Rafael Guastavino in Valencia

Touring Valencia with the https://www.spain-walkingtours.com APP, we found the statue of a brilliant and still very unknown architect. The Valencian Rafael Guastavino Moreno who brought his architectural innovation to the heart of the Big Apple.

Born in Valencia on March 1, 1842, this passionate master builder not only left his mark on architecture, but also brought with him a touch of the warm and vibrant Valencian culture to New York.

Since his childhood, Guastavino grew up in the shadows of the majestic cathedral of Valencia and, coincidentally, during the nearby restoration of the Lonja de la Seda. This early experience may have sparked his future career, becoming fascinated with the building elements around him.

After going through the school for master builders in Barcelona, Guastavino crossed the Atlantic in 1881 with his ingenuity and little else under his arm, heading to the land of opportunities: America.

Ah, but Guastavino's life was not just about arches and vaults; He also had his share of personal drama, his romances and irregular life added a touch of soap opera to his story. Married first to Pilar Expósito, who abandoned him and emigrated to Argentina with her three children, while Guastavino fell in love with Paulina Roig, with whom he had another child. A melodrama worthy of Broadway!

But, matters of the heart aside, Guastavino stood out in the world of architecture. His Guastavino system, patented in 1885, became the soul of more than 360 buildings in New York, including icons such as Grand Central Terminal, or the American Museum of Natural History.

Although he started out with some setbacks, including bankruptcy during the Panic of 1884, this resilient Valencian overcame adversity and left an indelible mark on the city that never sleeps.

Guastavino's inventiveness was based on his system of tile vaults, a technique from the Spanish Mediterranean tradition. Imagine a Valencian in New York building a vault and setting it on fire to demonstrate its resistance! , pure Valencian passion.

The New York Times called him the "architect of New York", a title that would resonate with any Valencian who appreciates the audacity and ingenuity of one of their own.

In short, Rafael Guastavino Moreno was more than an architect; He was a bold Valencian who conquered New York with tiles, love affairs and a spark of Mediterranean culture.

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