Guastavino Tiles in Washington D.C. : A Digital Exploration

Hi everyone, I can’t believe this semester is already coming to a close. I’ve had so much fun learning about digital history and discussing with you over the course of the semester. I’ve also greatly enjoyed watching your projects grow and take their final forms. I thank everyone for their comments, answers to troubleshooting questions, and overall support as I’ve constructed my digital project this semester. Without further ado, here it is, Guastavino Tiles in Washington D.C. : An Architectural Feat on Display in the Nation’s Capitol. 

I’m calling this project a digital exploration. When I originally conceived of the idea, it was meant to be a map of all the public buildings in Washington, D.C. that featured Guastavino tile work. After the map was completed, with all the points plotted, and each point featuring an interpretive label, thanks to your comments I realized an added layer of interpretation was needed for the project to be successful. Following my last blog post I turned to John Allen Ochsendorf, Guastavino Vaulting: The Art of Structural Tile (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2010). From this incredible work I was able to construct interpretive panels that helped to explain what Guastavino tile architecture was, who Rafael Guastavino and Rafael Guastivino Jr. were, and their contributions to the American Beaux-Arts movement, that shaped Washington, D.C. and many other cities in the United States. I added 6 interpretive panels, which tied the project together and also made it more than a map, morphing it into a ‘digital exploration’. I am excited that this can be a stand alone resource for anyone interested in Guastavino tile architecture or looking to explore some beautiful architectural work throughout Washington, D.C. I am also excited to see how this map works in conjunction with the larger digital exhibition on the Carnegie Library on Mount Vernon Square (as soon as that project is finalized I will comment the link so anyone interested can view it). 

I am very glad I chose to do this digital project, as it pushed me out of my comfort zone of academic writing and provided me with more skills I did not yet poses. I now feel comfortable working with ArcGIS, a software I had no prior experience with, and hope this will be a transferable skill to other mapping and digital exhibition platforms. I was grateful for the opportunity to challenge myself to write for a broad audience, versus an academic audience. The thing that provided me with the most anxiety in this new form of writing was the lack of typical footnote citations, which I instead substituted for links for more information that would take you to the organization occupying the building, the sites where I did the majority of my research. In addition, I supplied a bibliography and a for more information section. John Ochsendorf has done wonderful historical research on Guastavino and I am very grateful that this digital exploration can add to the conversations he has begun in remembering Guastavino and encouraging audiences to experience his architectural work. It’s my hope that through this project audiences will remember to look up in their daily lives, as you never know what architectural ingenious is above you. 

I’m very proud of the work I did in this class and I am so excited to share this resource with you all. I have a new found interest in digital history and hope to continue to expand my digital skill sets and utilize the many wonderful platforms and software into my public history work. Thank you all again for being a wonderful group to share in this strange COVID-era experience with. 

5 Replies to “Guastavino Tiles in Washington D.C. : A Digital Exploration”

  1. Hi Rosie,

    I think you did a wonderful job with your project. Not only is it visually stunning and engaging, your research is so detailed and informative. I think you did an excellent job with your interpretation, from style to presentation. I had no clue what these tiles were before your project but I left with a newfound understanding and appreciation of the architecture around me!

    1. Hi Josh, thank you so much for your comment and for viewing my project. I appreciate it. I agree, before embarking on this project I had no idea about Rafael Guastavino or his work and I’m so glad I was able to research and learn. I know I’ll for sure be on the lookout for wonderful architectural feats around me, especially in Washington, D.C.

  2. Hi Rosie, this is an awesome project. Architecture is an underrated piece of history (outside of Europe honestly) and I think your project emphasizes that history is everywhere. I loved exploring your map and your interpretation helps situate this conversation in theory and practice. Really great project!

    1. Hi Amanda, thank you so much for your comment and for viewing my project. I agree! I have never heard much about architectural history in any history class (undergraduate or graduate). I think while a separate field architectural history can enrich the things we know about social and political history at the time. I learned so much about the turn of the century just through looking at it through the lense of Guastavino and his work!

  3. Hi Rosie! Your project looks great! I am so glad you decided to add interpretation to your map– it adds a needed layer to the map. One thing I might suggest is moving the color coding definitions to the top of the map — I didn’t see it on the bottom and was wondering what the different colors mean. But, that’s pretty nit-picky of me.

    I learned a lot from your project– architectural history isn’t something I’m familiar with so I’ve been looking forward to your project! It’s so interesting to see how architecture changes through time — but old architecture just hits different. Well done, Rosie!

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