Guastavino Tile in the decommissioned City Hall Subway Station
Guastavino was once a name that was a household word amongst architects. The Guastavino Company, led by a father-son team of Spanish Immigrants, oversaw the construction of thousands of thin-tile vaults across the United States, including over 200 in New York City, between the 1880s and 1950s. From Grand Central Terminal’s Oyster Bar and Whispering Gallery to the Municipal Building to the Queensborough Bridge, we walk amidst Gustavino’s tiles every day without noticing.
Opening today at the Museum of the City of New York is the exhibition “Palaces for the People: Guastavino and the Art of Structural Tile,” paying homage to the artisanal family.
If you have ever visited the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, you may have noticed a bizarre sculpture in the courtyard next door to the Cathedral. The Peace Fountain, as the sculpture is called, located at the corner of West 110th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, is immensely confounding and provocative. Built in 1985 by the Cathedral Artist-in-Residence Greg Wyatt, the forty-foot high Bronze sculpture consists of a crab, the decapitated head of Satan, the double helix of DNA, and nine giraffes!
In the heart of Jamaica, one of Queens’ largest commercial and shopping districts, stands a grandiloquent 20th century movie palace. The Loew’s Valencia Theater, which opened its doors on January 12, 1929, was the first of five flagship “Wonder” theaters opened by the Loew’s chain in and around New York City during the late 1920s. The other four movie palaces include Brooklyn’s Kings Theater, Manhattan’s 175th Street Theater, the Bronx’s Paradise Theater, and Loew’s Jersey City. The Valencia Theater, as the other Loew’s movie palaces, was designed to showcase opulent, exotic, and larger-than-life landscapes.