Specifications and the Written Labor of the Guastavino Company
Specifications, often viewed as the most mundane procedural task of building design, is one of architecture’s most political acts. While drawing sets and models describe physical work in place, specifications support the set by organizing and directing how architecture is made through units of work completed by a trade. The specifications collected for one 20th-century company, the Guastavino Company, who were master builders of timbrel vaulting systems in the United States, reveal how standards issued over time impacted the company’s role and the traditional construction system they crafted, and possibly led to the company’s demise in 1962.
Jessica Garcia Fritz is an assistant professor of architecture at South Dakota State University, where she teaches design studio and architectural and construction history and manages the architectural library collection. She is also the co-founder and a partner of LA-BOR, a research and design practice in Brookings, South Dakota.
Part of the ISU Department of Architecture’s 2019-2020 Public Programs Series, her lecture is co-sponsored by the Department of Architecture and central Iowa chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute and co-presented by the ISU Consortium for the History of Technology and Science.