Characteristics of Art Deco Architecture

Art deco architecture is forever linked to the concept of modernism. In fact, the term "art deco" was first used in the 1960s. What we now call art deco was called "modern" during the time that the art and architecture were actually being created.

The times after the end of World War I but before the onset of the Depression were giddy. The Roaring Twenties gave people the sight of Charles Lindberg flying across the Atlantic in an airplane. Motion pictures snapped images onto screens, creating the first movie stars. Mechanization and the machine age meant didn't necessarily mean monotony-it meant streamlined efficiency.

While the Depression turned the giddiness into bread lines, the Depression turned art deco into nationalistic expression and hope for the future.

How did this translate into architecture? Architecture, and art deco art as a whole, became geometric and angular. There were also curved lines in art deco, but these curves imparted strength and power more often than sensuality.

Modern symbols, such as automobiles, were used for decorations along with motifs from ancient Egypt, as Egypt was all the rage after the discovery of King Tutankhamen's tomb in 1922. Birds, machine gears, sunrays and starbursts were also used as well as classical allusions from ancient Greece and Rome.

Some outstanding examples of art deco architecture include:

  • The Chrysler Building, 1928-1930. New York City, N. Architect: William Van Alen.
  • Golden Gate Bridge, 1933-1937. San Francisco, California. Architect: Joseph B. Straus.
  • Empire State Building, 1931. New York City, New York. Architect: Shreve, Lamb and Harmon.
  • New India Assurance Building, 1936. Mumbai, India. Architect: Master, Sarhe and Bhuta.
  • Buffalo City Hall, 1931. Buffalo, New York. Architect: Dietel, Wade & Jones.
  • Kefhook Housing Estate, 1930. Rotterdam, Netherlands. Architect: J. J. P. Oud.
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