Posts Tagged ‘Guastavino tiles’

The soaring, stunning vaulted ceilings of an East Side Trader Joe’s

December 6, 2021

Most shoppers flock to Trader Joe’s because of the low prices and extensive food options—and a checkout line that seems a little speedier than at other city supermarkets.

But the new Trader Joe’s that recently opened in the cavernous space under the Queensboro Bridge at 59th Street and First Avenue offers a reason to look not at the shelves but high up at the 40-foot ceiling.

The cathedral-like ceiling features a seemingly endless cascade of domed vaults and columns covered in off-white tiles arranged like a basket weave.

The tiling was the work of Rafael Guastavino, a Spanish immigrant who patented a tiling system “based on the building methods behind Catalan vaulting” in the early 20th century, according to Architect Magazine. Grand Central Station’s Whispering Gallery, the Manhattan Municipal Building, and other architectural landmarks of New York’s progressive era also feature Guastavino tiles.

The original vendors’ market, 1915

Bridgemarket, as the space under the bridge is known, might seem like a strange place to open a retail food outlet. But its roots as a marketplace run deep.

Inside the marketplace, 1915

Five years after the Queensboro Bridge was completed in 1909, this space was used as an open-air market (above, in 1915), where vendors came in wagons to sell produce and set up booths.

That original market closed in the 1930s. But it wasn’t until 1999 when Food Emporium renovated the space to fit a modern supermarket; the store featured a mezzanine level that made the view of the ceiling tiles almost magical (below).

Flashback 2014, when Food Emporium operated the space

Food Emporium left Bridgemarket in 2015—and now Trader Joe’s is giving a try to this soaring, stunning monument to New York’s food market history.

[Photo 3: MCNY x2010.11.5557; Photo 4: MCNY x2010.11.10030]

An East Side supermarket’s lovely vaulted ceiling

January 6, 2014

Grocery shopping is an inspiring experience at the Food Emporium at 59th Street and First Avenue.

Instead of a box-like store with bad fluorescent lighting, this giant supermarket tucked beneath the Queensboro Bridge is like a cathedral, with graceful arches and pillars and beautiful vaulted ceilings lined with Guastavino tiles.

Bridgemarketceiling

Bridgemarket, as the site is known, is one of many spaces in the city designed by architect Rafael Guastavino.

“Guastavino, an architect from Barcelona, pioneered the adaptation of a centuries-old vernacular building technology called the boveda catalana, or Catalan vault, in which long flat tiles are laid in courses and mortared together with a special mixture of portland cement and cow bay sand,” states Architecture Week.

Bridgemarket2

“Guastavino vaults can be found in numerous grand interiors, including Grand Central Terminal, the U.S. Customs House, and the main hall at Ellis Island.”

Bridgemarket3

Bridgemarket didn’t get its name from its association with Food Emporium. The site actually housed a farmer’s market in the early 1900s.

Guastavino also designed the vaulted ceilings of the long-closed, absolutely beautiful City Hall subway station.