Art Deco Architectural Style : Des Arts Decoratifs

Art Deco Architectural Style is  a creative but short-lived movement, Art Deco Architectural Style not only influenced the architecture of most American cities but had an impact on fashion, art, and furniture, too. From 1925 to 1940, Americans embraced Art Deco architectural style as a refreshing change from the eclectic and revivalist sensibilities that preceded it. The Art Deco Architectural Style takes its name from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs held in Paris in 1925 as a showcase for new inspiration. The Art Deco Architectural Style was essentially one of applied decoration. Art Deco Architectural Style Buildings were richly embellished with hard-edged, low-relief designs: geometric shapes, including chevrons and ziggurats; and stylized floral and sunrise patterns.

Shapes and decorations inspired by Native American artwork were among the archetypes of the Art Deco Style lexicon.

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Art Deco Architectural Style

Art Deco Architectural Style,

Characteristics of Art Deco Architectural Style

The structure of Art Deco Design is founded on mathematical geometric shapes which drew equally on Greco-Roman Classicism, the faceted architectural forms of Babylon, Assyria, Ancient Egypt, and Aztec Mexico – notably their ziggurats, pyramids and other monumental structures – and Machine Age streamline designs from aviation, the radio, and the skyscraper.

In classic Architecture of Art Deco, rectangular block forms were often arranged in geometric fashion, then broken up by curved ornamental elements. But always the aim was a monolithic appearance with applied decorative motifs.

In particular, Art Deco designs are characterized by trapezoidal, zigzagged, and triangular shapes, chevron patterns, stepped forms, sweeping curves and sunburst motifs – the latter being visible in a number of separate applications, including: shoes, car radiator grilles, the Radio City Music Hall auditorium, and the spire of the William van Alen Chrysler Building (1928-30) in New York.

Materials use in Art Deco Architectural Style

Art Deco Design style materials included stucco, concrete, smooth-faced stone, and Terracotta. Steel and aluminum were often used along with glass blocks and decorative opaque plate glass (vitrolite).

And while continuing the use of high quality Art Nouveau materials, such as moulded glass, horn, and ivory, Art Deco Theory  also introduced exotic items like shark-skin, and zebra-skin.

Roof Character in Art Deco

Art Deco designers adorned flat roofs with parapets, spires, or tower-like constructs to accentuate a corner or entrance. Decorative curiosities such as chimneys were added to further enhance the design.

Windows Features of Art Deco Style

Windows usually appear as punctured openings, either square or round. To maintain a streamlined appearance for the building, they were often arranged in continuous horizontal bands of glass. Wall openings are sometimes filled with decorative glass or with glass blocks, creating a contrast of solid and void forms while admitting daylight. Many large apartment buildings found aesthetic success with decorative embossed spandrel panels placed below windows. The Kennedy-Warren Apartments is an example.

Entrance Definition in Art Deco Architectural Style

Doorways are sometimes surrounded with elaborate pilasters and pediments, and door surrounds are often embellished with either reeding (a convex decoration) or fluting (a concave decoration). The quality and extent of the decorative motifs vary by project and designer.

Art Deco Architectural Style,

Interesting art deco architectural style Examples

A 1984 book, Washington Deco by Hans Wirz and Richard Striner, catalogs over 400 Art Deco buildings in the Washington area. Two examples are on Capitol Hill: the former Kresge Store at 666 Pennsylvania Avenue S.E., built in 1936 and recently expanded (the Art Deco style frieze on the building’s facade was part of the 1980s renovation of the building; the pattern for the frieze was taken from a 1930s fabric); and the Penn Theater at 650 Pennsylvania Avenue S.E., built in 1935. Although the Penn Theater itself was demolished, the marquee and a portion of the faccade have been incorporated into the new building. Additional examples of Washington Art Deco are the Kennedy-Warren Apartments at 3133 Connecticut Avenue N.W., the Hecht Company warehouse on New York Avenue N.E., and the sign of the former Greyhound Bus Terminal on New York Avenue N.W.

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Quick Overview of Design Elements used in art deco style

  • Vertical emphasis.
  • Rooflines are stepped or flat.
  • Concrete is a common material used in construction to achieve smooth white surfaces.  However, polychromatic examples exist with painted concrete.
  • A minimum of one of the following decorative elements:  zigzags, chevrons, sunburst, fluting, banding or other references to the machine age.
  • Projections are often incorporated into the roof design.
  • Glass brick and tile are used to decorate the building.
  • Windows are often large with metal sashes.
  • Additional decorative features that are distinctly non-Western.
  • Streamlined, modern design
  • Ziggurats (staggered or tiered pyramid shapes)
  • Symmetrical, repeating patterns
  • Use of bold colours – specifically green, yellow, turquoise and ruby
  • Gold accents
  • Inlaid stained glass – bold colouring
  • Liberal use of sleek-looking materials – stainless steel, aluminum, marble, glass
  • Angular, geometric patterns inlaid into facades: Zigzags – Sunbursts – Chevrons – Sweeping curves (as opposed to stylized, scrolly Art Nouveau curves) – Egyptian motifs – Floral motifs – Bird motifs etc,.

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This, together with its image as a modern, opulent style, made Art Deco designs especially suitable for the interiors of cinemas, ocean liners such as the Queen Mary, and the architecture of train stations across the United States. It endured throughout the Depression due to the practicality and simplicity of its design, and its suggestion of better times ahead.