Art Deco: A Glamorous Tribute to the Machine Age

Cochise CountyArt Deco Courthouse doors, Bisbee, Arizona,
Cochise County Courthouse doors, Bisbee, Arizona, 1931. Architect: Roy W. Place

If there was ever an architectural style that stood above the rest, it would be Art Deco. Just drive through any U.S, city, large or small and you will notice how distinctive they are in comparison to the other, more modern buildings. Notably, most of these buildings are skyscrapers that remain today and give the still city its distinctive skyline.

Besides it’s innovative design, Art Deco was a representation of social class, specifically, it depicted luxury and glamour.

To that end, we must give credit to the industrial revolution, as the Art Deco movement embraced technology and the style flourished during a period when rapid industrialization was transforming the world. The decorative design first appeared in France after World War I, spread internationally and was popular in the US from the mid-1920s until the beginning of the 1940s.

Design and Style

CC Google Wikipedia
Buffalo City Hall, Buffalo NY

The Art Deco style emphasized geometric shapes, such as chevrons, zizags, and rectangles, as well as stylized floral and sunrise patterns. The architectural designs are often arranged in symmetrical patterns and the materials used are modern: aluminum, stainless steel, and chrome, for example. The characteristics associated with Art Deco was influenced by such other architectural styles as Cubism, Constructivism, Functionalism, Modernism, and Futurism.

However, given the look of opulence as a result of the embellishments and patterns, the popularity of the Art Deco style waned in the 1940s during World War II.

Art Deco Examples that Remain Today

Rockefeller Center
The GE Building at Rockefeller Center, NYC is a perfect example of the Art Deco movement

New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles all have numerous examples of the Art Deco style. For instance, although the Empire State Building does not have the zigzag design that was popular in Art Deco, its shape is typical for this style. Its distinctive spire, originally designed to be a mooring mast for dirigibles, has the long lines and setback design common for Art Deco. In the lobby of the building is a ceiling mural in the typical Art Deco fashion. Featuring 23-karat gold and aluminum, the mural depicts the celestial sky with sunbursts and stars represented by gears in honor of the Machine Age. Although, the mural had been covered up in the 1960s, it is being restored by artists and historians.

Other New York buildings where Art Deco can be found include the Chrysler Building, with its stainless steel crescent-shaped steps of the spire, and the Barclay-Vesey Building, which was built in 1923-1927 and is considered the first Art Deco skyscraper.

There are many additional structures that characterize this design. Just visit the Art Deco Society to get a glimpse of how distinctive and beautiful these structures are, even today.

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