This vault was created as a tribute both to the region’s rich ceramic-making tradition and to the characteristic tile vault technique. This technique was disseminated by Valencian architect Rafael Guastavino both among the architects of the catalan Modernisme and in the United States. An enormous effort was required to design the mortuary chapel because all the curves in the chapel were produced using catenary profiles. These curves are incredibly difficult to express mathematically and graphically to successfully optimise the construction’s overall structural operation.
Close to 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles were used in construction following tests to establish the type of clay, texture, durability and aging tests. The size and thickness, both dependent on the curves of the mortuary chapel, and the necessary weight were calculated for the three ceramic layers to compensate for the effect of wind suction. The vault is comprised of four interlinked hyperbolic paraboloids and is very light yet incredibly resistant. Centering was not required and only some metal guides were used to ensure curvature was guaranteed. The vaulted structure was carefully studied so that entire bricks could be used, avoiding trimmings or patching up joints. It was built using only brick, gypsum and white cement, and did not require reinforced concrete.
The total constructed weight of the vault is approximately 12.5 tonnes, considerably less than a traditional construction with brick walls and concrete floors and ceilings. These figures reveal the savings in both energy and material, as well as the versatility of the tile vault compared to other more common constructions.
The central paving uses double slip-coated ceramic tiles, with curves and counter-curves in dialogue with the vault. These tiles were designed and manufactured for the occasion by a ceramist, who also designed the monolith and the ceramic panel at the top of the mortuary chapel.