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Who Are We?

The Guastavino Alliance is an organization dedicated to championing the history and preservation of the over 1,000 vaults and domes designed by Rafael Guastavino (father and son) that feature their unique structural tile method.

There are more than 600 extant Guastavino sites in 30 states and six countries. We began inviting sites to join the Alliance in 2020 and presently have 49 sites in 18 states and the District of Columbia. Our goal is to include all sites featuring Guastavino’s work as members of the Alliance to enable the sites to work together in efforts of preservation, research, education, and advocacy.

In 2024, the Guastavino Alliance went under the umbrella of the Swannanoa Valley Museum and History Center in Black Mountain, NC.

Who Is Rafael Guastavino?

Rafael Guastavino was a Spanish architect and builder known for his pioneering work in architectural tile vaulting. Born in Valencia, Spain in 1842, Guastavino emigrated to the United States in 1881. He brought with him a construction method called “Catalan vaulting,” which involved the use of interlocking terracotta tiles to create strong, fireproof, and beautiful vaulted ceilings and arches.

Guastavino’s work can be found in many notable buildings across the United States, including the Boston Public Library, Grand Central Terminal in New York City, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, and the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. His innovative tile vaulting technique not only contributed to the aesthetic appeal of these buildings but also provided structural strength and fire resistance.

Guastavino’s legacy continues to influence architecture and construction, and his name is synonymous with the development of tile vaulting techniques in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

From Barcelona to Black Mountain

In 1894, Guastavino was pulled south to design part of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville. While in the area, he began to purchase tracts of land in Black Mountain to build his own grand estate, Rhododendron.

Before his death in 1908, Guastavino’s final project was a collaboration with Richard Sharp Smith on the design of the Basilica of Saint Lawrence in Asheville. The Basilica also serves as Guastavino’s final resting place, housing the crypt in which he is entombed.

Today, much of the historic Rhododendron Estate is now a part of the campus of Christmount Christian Assembly in Black Mountain, where the ruins of “The Spanish Castle”, as referred to by locals, are still visible.

Become a Member!

Sites with a Guastavino structure (or former structure) are eligible to become members of the Guastavino Alliance. Individuals, organizations, and businesses are able to participate and support the efforts of the Alliance as Friends.

Joining the Guastavino Alliance grants access to a breadth of shared expertise and resources, including support in interpretive materials, fundraising, social media, and event planning. Members can utilize digital exhibit files donated by Professor John Ochsendorf, enabling the creation of engaging exhibits showcasing Guastavino’s architectural legacy. Exclusive benefits include the Arch and Dome newsletter, offering updates on Guastavino-related developments, and discounted copies of Ochsendorf’s book, “Guastavino Vaulting: The Art of Structural Tile.”

It’s easy to join the Alliance! All you have to do is complete the simple form here.

Support the Alliance!

Contributions to the Guastavino Alliance directly empower our mission to safeguard and honor the legacy of Guastavino architecture. To support our efforts, kindly direct all donations to the Swannanoa Valley Museum, specifying allocation for the Guastavino Alliance. As the Swannanoa Valley Museum holds 501(c)(3) status, your generosity towards the Alliance may qualify for tax deductions. You can donate online below or mail a check to the Swannanoa Valley Museum (PO Box 306, Black Mountain, NC 2871)

If you are interested in additional information, please see these suggested links:

NC State University, North Carolina Architects & Builders – Gaustavino, Rafael, Sr.

WNC Magazine “Lost to Time: The relics of architect Rafael Gaustavino’s estate Rhododendron, hint at a rich life

TOCCI “The creator of Cohesive Construction”

Biltmore – Guastavino’s architectural influence in Asheville