Metro tiles, the iconic ceramic tile of the 20th century

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The history of the metro tiles

White, black or green. Bevelled edges and glossy enamel. This was the first metro style tile manufactured to line the New York subway in 1904. George Heins and Christopher Grant La Farge, the architects accredited with creating this format, were looking for a material that was durable, light-weight and easy to clean… with the help of several ceramic tile companies, they created the metro tile. They dry pressed the ceramic tiles, imitating the proportions and installation of a brick. And so, they easily covered curved walls and ceilings.

One emblematic example is City Hall, one of New York’s first subway stations. The platform and the mezzanine areas boast Gustavino vaults and skylights, stained glass, tiles, and bronze chandeliers.

Metro tiles popularity in Europe

This type of ceramic tile soon spread to other underground railways in London, Paris, and Madrid.

Decades later, the metro tile stopped being used underground and its qualities began to be valued for lining bathrooms and kitchens.

From the middle of the twentieth century, this ceramic tile variety became the trend for architects and decorators due to its quality and durability, but also its conveyance of a sense of modernity, elegance, and practicality.

The pressed earth of 1900 nowadays exploits the advantages of porcelain. We find metro tiles of various finishes and colours in the Manhattan collection from Pissano.

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