Theses (Historic Preservation)

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



Since antiquity, reverberation has been linked to monumental interiors. Roman temples and medieval Gothic cathedrals produced a recognizable soundscape that was considered as natural as gravity. Vaults, domes, pendentives, and other large concave surfaces produced reverberant spaces that enriched the medieval latin chant but was detrimental to the clarity of the modern Protestant sermon. At the turn of the twentieth-century, Wallace Clement Sabine and Rafael Guastavino Jr. responded to a demand to quiet Protestant cathedrals. Together, they patented two acoustical products, a clay-based tile named “Rumford” and an artificial stone named “Akoustolith.” These were structural, imitated traditional masonry, and absorbed the mid and high pitches. They were bonded as a soffit to the vaults and domes of interlocking structural clay tiles. The Akoustolith was not only specified in religious buildings, but enjoyed success in secular buildings: banks, auditoriums, libraries, museums, classrooms, courthouses, laboratories, gymnasiums, swimming pools, and railroad stations. This thesis broadens the history of the origins, development, and application of Akoustolith tile. It presents a material analysis on the following properties: water absorption, particle size distribution, compressive strength, and mineralogical composition. This thesis demonstrates that the Akoustolith tile presented variability in composition across commissions and within individual tiles, modifying its acoustical behavior by changing particle size, angularity, sorting, and binder-to-aggregate ratio. It presents evidence that the degree of sorting is inversely correlated with compressive strength. This informs the hypothesis that sorting is proportional to sound absorption.


Guastavino, acoustical tile, reverberation, porosity, artificial stone



Date Posted: 08 July 2022