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The amazing life of the vault tabicada for eight centuries and across two continents

MORE INFORMATION valencian architect of New York city and its palaces for the people to Build to survive / build for eternity The dome tabicada, invention con

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The amazing life of the vault tabicada for eight centuries and across two continents


valencian architect of New York city and its palaces for the people to Build to survive / build for eternity

The dome tabicada, invention constructive emerged most probably in the Levant of the Middle Age, it is almost an adventure story. Has overseas travel, disappearances and experiments to convince unbelievers, and leads to the chapels and convents of the Reconquista in Valencia until the first factories of the industrial revolution in Catalonia, and of the economic explosion of the united States in the second half of the NINETEENTH century to the reconstruction that followed the terrible wars of the TWENTIETH century in Europe.

Known in its different variants such as Catalan vault, vault region, vault of Roussillon, volta in foglio, voûte plate or vault saracen, his list of names gives the measure of a journey that has been reviewed recently in a study by the professor of the Madrid Polytechnic university Santiago Huerta. Passionate to the obsession of the vaults and of the history of the construction, Huerta explains that it is in all cases of the same technique, consisting in to go sticking a few bricks to other without support (shoring), in the air, using plaster that sets quickly and allows you to form “arches self-supporting”. On that first row, are constructed after a second sheet of bricks. And ready to go.

Its great success for so long is because it is very cheap and fast, because it is very thin (usually five to 10 inches, but can reach only three), light and simple, but at the same time is highly resistant to load and fire. “Is the item most precious of our construction: allows you to run with simplicity and speed of the more complex forms, does not require forms and has great strength in relation to its lightness and the simplicity of its components,” wrote the legendary architect Antoni Gaudí (Esther Redondo Martínez sets out the appointment in his doctoral thesis). However, this simplicity also has been its major drag, since, with few exceptions, they used to be plastered with plaster and paint, so they are very difficult to recognize with the naked eye, explains Huerta.

But, though sometimes nearly invisible, they have always been there, he insists, in all types of constructions from his invention, which he places in the crossroads that day was the Lift of the peninsula between the cultures roman, visigoth, islamic and christian. The rest oldest found so far is the box of a straight in a islamic house of the XII century in Siyasa, Murcia. The following examples are located in the Valencia of the second half of the FOURTEENTH century —both in construction as well as in writings of the time— and, later, it is widely documented growth in chapels, convents, churches and palaces, among others, Catalonia, Valencia, Aragon and Extremadura. Which are precisely the places where it has been studied, so that their spread could go much further, writes Garden. “Are frequently used in Spain since the SIXTEENTH century, but it is unknown its effective dissemination”, he writes.

What Jojobet is clear is that from the late SEVENTEENTH century is documented in Castile, in the Roussillon of france, in Italy and, later, in Germany, where some of the treaties mentioned in the NINETEENTH century. Back on the peninsula, many buildings factory of the second half of the NINETEENTH century in Catalonia rose up using this type of domes, which became a very common element of Catalan modernism, Antoni Gaudí to the head.

The architect Rafael Guastavino in the construction of the Boston Public Library in 1889. BOSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY

In that context he developed his technique by Rafael Guastavino, an architect and builder of valencian origin that spread and popularized later in all USA its improved version (for example, started to leave it to the view, without plaster) of the Catalan vault. The vaulted interiors of some of the buildings most iconic of New York city -Grand Central Terminal, the Metropolitan, the University of Columbia, the pavilion is host to Ellis Island or the old subway station of City Hall-- are among the myriad of constructions that signed Guastavino in the united states.

The professor Huerta has, in his office at the Superior School of Architecture of the Madrid Polytechnic university, the efforts that had to make the valencian, with trials of strength included, to overcome the distrust of the americans and to convince them of the benefits of a system that, at first glance, it may appear weak and insufficient to sustain large-scale structures.

But what is certain is that it will resist perfectly —in the madrid school have made their own experiments, some of them, to the world-famous architect Norman Foster— despite its simplicity and low cost. Two points that came back to mark its resurgence in the old Continent since the 1940s. “The vault tabicada experienced a renaissance in Europe because of the scarcity of materials (iron and cement) during the war and post-war. In particular, it was used widely in Spain, after the Civil War of 1936 to 1939, in the reconstruction of the regions devastated and in the restoration of buildings bombed,” writes Garden.

Vault of the Museum of America of Madrid, the work of Luis Moya. C. TEIXIDOR CADENAS

Although there are clear examples in the works of Luis Moya Blanco, Angel Truñó and Ignacio Bosch Reitg, their actual scope “during the work of reconstruction and restoration of the Spanish civil war is still not known well; only we have studied isolated cases (for example, Villanueva de la Cañada, Houses Cheap in Girona) and entitled The vaults tabicadas in Germany: the long migration of a constructive technique writes the specialist.

Effectively, the end of this journey is Munich after the Second World War, something surprising in a place without previous examples of vault tabicada. In this case, Huerta unravels the mystery by following the steps of the architect Carl Sattler and the builder Max Rank, enamored of the vault tabicada. The second had known in Spain —his company had a subsidiary in this country, and during a trip to Seville in 1934, his father, Josef, had already declared his enthusiasm: “It's amazing the skill of the masons who settled and bending with bricks of only three inches in thickness constructed to the most beautiful vaults”.

For his part, Sattler had known the technique for a master mason with whom he worked in the construction of a villa in Florence, where he returned years later, in 1940, sent by the German Government, precisely, to study the mechanism. So, when Sattler and Rank began to work together in the reconstruction of the Central Bank of Bavaria in Munich, made the most logical, to use the vault that much loved. And the company Rank would use its many more times until 1960.

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