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 :)