Guastavino Tiles Map Update

Hi everyone, here is the update on my Mapping Guastavino tiles project. As a reminder of the project, my practicum group is working with the DC History Center to create a Digital Exhibit about the Carnegie Library Building on Mount Vernon Square. Part of this exhibit will examine the architectural history of the building, while providing context on the Beaux Arts architectural movement. The Carnegie Library is one of multiple buildings in Washington, D.C. that features Guastavino tiles, an architectural feature perfected and popularized by Rafael Guastavino Sr. and Jr. in the early 1900s. For this courses requirements (and to be featured in the exhibit) I am building a map of all the public buildings in Washington, D.C. that feature Guastavino Tiles. I am using Story Map ArcGIS software to do this. To view the map click here.


While preliminary research informed me of multiple buildings with tiles, it did not inform me of all the buildings in D.C. A few years ago the National Building Museum hosted an exhibit about Guastavino tiles. I reached out to the curatorial department to ask if they had a list of all the buildings in Washington, D.C. that had the architectural feature, and luckily they did and graciously shared it with me. There are 24 public buildings in Washington, D.C. that feature Guastavino tiles. Seen here. 

After doing more research into the buildings on their various websites, in news articles, etc. I decided to eliminate the Lawerence Residence, the current home of the French Ambassador, from my map. I decided to eliminate it because I wanted this map to serve as a tool that people could use to find buildings they could have feasible access to see the Guastavino tiles. During COVID 19 this may not be an option, as many of the buildings are closed to the public. Some buildings like the U.S. The Department of the Interior needs security clearance, but since they were Federal Government buildings I decided to leave them on the map.

The Map: 

The first step of my process was to plot the points on the map. Seen here.

I then added interpretive information, which and an image which appears as you hover over the point on the map. The “Read More” function allows you to expand and see the rest of the interpretive text. When appropriate I added the link to the building’s website so people could read more about the history of the building, the organization that occupies it, or potentially schedule a visit. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 I was unable to take my own images of the Guastavino tiles as I had originally hoped. Due to this I had to use images I found online. Therefore, I included an “Image courtesy of,…” line at the bottom of each interpretive panel, as you were unable to add it directly to the photograph when plotting points. Due to having to rely on photographs from the website I was also unable to get photographs of the tile work in each building, so some building photographs are of the exterior. While this was disappointing, I do not think it takes away from the impact that this map can have.

Revised Proposal: 

Since the map points are plotted, include photographs, and interpretive information, the bulk of the project is complete. I am open to any suggestions on revising the interpretive information if necessary. The bulk of the panels are short, featuring just a few sentences, in an effort to provide relevant information without overwhelming viewers with text, especially since there are so many panels.

I realized after posting my proposal that there was not much of a ‘so what?’ aspect to my project. After thinking about it, it is my hope that this map will show how influential the Guastavino family and their tile technique was to the architecture of Washington, D.C. in the early 1900s. Guastavino tiles are a main feature of the Beaux Arts architectural movement, a movement that can be seen in monuments and buildings throughout the city, including many on this list (The Supreme Court, the Cannon House Building, the Carnegie Library, the DC War Memorial, etc.). I think this tool, especially the spatial aspect of the map can help viewers learn about how buildings in the city came to be and how they were constructed over time. Each interpretive panel includes the date of the building’s construction, which allows viewers to see what buildings were being built in what parts of the city at what time. Since this map features many federal government buildings that were built during the great depression it adds to existing literature on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration’s efforts to create construction jobs to help pull the country out of the Great Depression. While the buildings mainly represent the Beaux Arts architectural style, some of the churches represent other architectural movements, which have been noted where appropriate. This may allow viewers to contrast and compare different architectural styles, while recognizing that Guastavino tiles were used throughout. 

In order to help audiences better understand the story of the Guastavino family I have included two interpretive panels on the home page below the map. These panels are not yet complete. I hope that they will be complete within the next week, as I’d like to have a very close to complete draft to demonstrate to the DC History Center. To complete the interpretive panels of this section I am planning on consulting John Ochensdorf’s book, Guastavino Vaulting: The Art of Structural Tile, which provides biographical information on both Rafael Guastivino Sr. and Rafael Guastavino Jr. 

Questions: Is there anything else you would like to see that provides context for this map? Are the visuals okay? Are the interpretive panels okay? 

7 Replies to “Guastavino Tiles Map Update”

  1. Rosie, I played around on your map and wow! It looks so professional and is so easy to use. I think you’re doing a great job. My only suggestion (and you may have planned this already), would be a more explicit connection to the historical significance of these tiles. Why do they matter? Why are they important to DC’s community history or architectural history? Besides that, I really love your creation.

    1. Hi Shae, thank you so much for your feedback. I’ve added some interpretive panels to provide information on Rafael Guastavino, his architectural feats and the ways in which they were innovative to American Architecture. Hopefully this well help!

  2. Rosie, I think your visuals for the map are very well designed. I especially liked looking at monuments that I am familiar with and now realizing how much architectural history was put in them. I would also like to see more about why the Guastavino tiles are culturally important to DC’s history and why the family themselves mattered so much towards the community.

    1. Hi Mengshu! Thank you for your feedback! I’ve added some interpretive panels that should hopefully provide some clarity to the questions you asked.

  3. This is coming together so well! Congrats on building out such a rich and engaging resource.

    I think your idea about working to bring out a bit more of the “so what” with the whole thing is spot on. To that end, you might think about putting a little bit of an upfront bit of text and images with some close ups on the tiles or some images of them being installed where you could then put out 3-5 paragraphs of info about their history and significance as a lead in to the map.

    One other thought to consider. With all the pins being the same color, you have a whole layer of additional info that you could potentially convey. Is there any way you might layer in more history or context by using different pin colors? Like is there any kind of periodization that is relevant here, where you might have 3-5 different colors that represent the earliest to latest periods when they were put in? Or could you differentiate between commercial, federal, and residential buildings? You don’t need to do that, but it seems like that could offer an interesting way to help provide some more at a glance info to your users.

    1. Hi Dr. Owens, thank you so much for your recommendations. I’ve added an introduction paragraph as well as some interpretive panels with the hope that they will draw out the “so what?” by providing insight into Rafael Guastavino’s work and the impact they had. I also found some wonderful up close pictures that I have added to help make the project more visually engaging. I appreciate the prompting of the different pin colors, I had not thought about that! I have arranged pins by date of who was in control of the company. Rafael Guastavino, pre his death in 1908 are green. Rafael Guastavino Jr.’s work between 1908-1950 are blue, and the company’s work following that is purple. Hopefully this will tie the interpretive material into the visuality of the map, while allowing audience members more chronological clarity when viewing the map. The ‘key’ for the map was included in the map’s caption box.

  4. This is so exciting and well done! Our children live in DC and we have made it a point to see as many RG sites as possible. There are two vaults at Rock Creek Church Cemetery that are accessible to the public.

Leave a Reply to Mengshu-Ye Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *