Mediterranean craftsmen had been building timbral* vaulting - also known as Catalan vaulting - for at least 600 years before Raphael Guastavino emigrated to the US and started taking out patents on a developed form of the technique. This was in the 1870s, and over the next six decades he and his son Rafael Jr were responsible for 'Guastavino' vaults and domes on more than 1,000 signifi cant buildings on the US east coast.
These included New York's Grand Central Station and Carnegie Hall, and the Boston Public Library.
Guastavino had to set up his own factory to get the range of tiles he needed.
These ultimately included solid, hollow and ribbed varieties in a range of sizes and colours, and even an innovative acoustic tile.