New York Daily Photo Analytics

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Would you like to do your grocery shopping in a space with the grandeur of a cathedral? Welcome to the Food Emporium at Bridgemarket, nicely tucked under the Manhattan approach to the 59th Street Bridge.

The Bridgemarket was originally an open air market in the early 1900s until the the 1930s, when it became a New York City Department of Transportation facility. The vaulted space was designed by Austrian-American architect Henry Hornbostel and engineer Gustav Lindenthal. It languished unappreciated and unloved until 1977, when Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates first presented plans for a market. Renovations were begun in 2000. It is now occupied by the Food Emporium (seen in the photo), Guastavino restaurant, a Conran furniture shop, and a public plaza.

The real pièces de résistance here are the vaulted ceilings covered with Guastivino tiles. Rafael Guastavino (1842-1908), an architect from Barcelona, came to New York with his son in 1881 and, in 1889, founded the Guastavino Fireproof Construction Company. It was initially run by Rafael and later his son, with its final contract completed in 1962.

The Guastavino tile arch system uses a timbrel or Catalan vault of self-supporting arches and architectural vaults with interlocking terracotta tiles and mortar. The Guastavino company eventually held 24 patents for the system.

Hundreds of historically and architecturally important buildings use his system - Grand Central Terminal (particularly the Oyster Bar), Grant's Tomb, Carnegie Hall, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the Elephant House at the Bronx Zoo and the Ellis Island Great Hall. Guastavino's first major project was in 1888, when he was hired by McKim, Mead & White to produce the vaulting for the Boston Public Library.

Using publicly available and architecturally beautiful structures for day-to-day tasks is one of the unique things about New York City - shopping in the old Scribners Bookstore on 5th Avenue, dining in a former bank with high ceilings the Blue Water Grill at Union Square like that occupied by Balducci in Chelsea, staying in historic hotels like the Waldorf Astoria or the Plaza, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, or just catching a train in Grand Central Station. There are many things to see and do in New York City, but as I explore, I'm keeping an eye out for one name, Guastavino :)


Terry B, Blue Kitchen said...

I enjoy your stories every bit as much as I do your pictures, Brian. Another great look inside New York. Thanks!

Rob and Mandy said...

Wow! That's one cool shop (and shot). Reminds me a lot of some of the modernist architects here in Barcelona, same period and, I guess, same inspiration. Thanks for this very interesting post, will research Gustavino further

Ree said...

Wonderful! I enjoy your photos and stories so much.

Luis Gomez said...

Wow! What a great space. Beautiful image. Thank you.

Sharon said...

Wow, this is quite impressive. I had dinner a few years ago at Guastavino restaurant and thought that space was remarkable.

Bristi said...

Amazing photography... liked your blog :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks to your pictures and stories.

grettings from Hamburg germany


alex said...

Those are nice photos you got there. I think I want to go there in our New York dating escapade. Thanks for the post. The photography is great!

オテモヤン said...


Anonymous said...

I don't know that I'd get much shopping done because I would be too busy admiring the architecture.

Great subject. Thanks for the photo.

Caity said...

I want to keep this in mind and check it out next time I'm in NYC. Thanks for sharing!

Mary said...

Great shot! Terrific angle!

Canadian Observer said...

Beautiful architecture.

It would certainly beat shopping for groceries at your local mall. I have a feeling though that the prices would be quite a bit higher.

Ted and Lori said...

I love love loved Grand Central Terminal and Ellis Island (specifically the ceilings). Thanks for posting this. Next time I'm in town, will definitely have to buy some butter and bread here.

vicente said...

The space is really wonderful. Good restoration work. One common mistake: Rafael Guastavino is from Valencia, not from Barcelona. Although it is called both Catalan vault and Timbrel Vault, this is an old mediterranean constructive technique.

Anonymous said...

There is a new book on Guastavino vaults, with new color photos of dozens of projects across the US and Spain.

Guastavino Vaulting: The Art of Structural Tile
is available on Amazon