The Beauty Of Art Deco

Photo By Igor Ovsyannykov // // Creative Commons

Art Deco, is in my opinion, the most beautiful type of architecture style ever created. From the height of its popularity in the 20’s and 30’s, Art Deco has never failed to be a source of inspiration for architects and designers.

Art Deco was associated with both luxury and modernity; it combined very expensive materials and exquisite craftsmanship put into modernistic forms. And nothing was cheap about Art Deco. Pieces of furniture included ivory and silver inlays, and pieces of Art Deco jewelry combined diamonds with platinum, jade, and other precious materials.

The style was used to decorate the first-class salons of ocean liners, deluxe trains, luxury cars, and skyscrapers. The great movie palaces of the late 20's and 30’s were undeniably Art Deco and have remained timeless, and by the 1930's, the style had been somewhat simplified, but it was still extravagant.

But the undisputed Art Deco capital of the world is New York City. The skyscrapers of Manhattan marked the summit of the Art Deco style; they became the tallest and most recognizable modern buildings in the world. They were designed to show the prestige of their builders through their height, their shape, their color, and their dramatic illumination at night.

Photo by Ross Sokolvski // // Creative Commons

The first New York skyscraper, the Woolworth Building, was completed in 1913, and the American Telephone and Telegraph Building had ionic and Doric columns and a classical Doric hypo-style with a frieze. The American Radiator Building combined Gothic and Deco modern elements in the design of the building. Black brick on the front facade of the building (symbolizing coal) was selected to give an idea of solidity and to give the building a solid mass. Other parts of the facade were covered in gold bricks (symbolizing fire), and the entry was decorated with marble and black mirrors.

The New York skyline was radically changed by the Chrysler Building in Manhattan, which became the icon of Art Deco. It was a giant seventy-seven floor tall advertisement for Chrysler automobiles. The top was crowned by a stainless steel spire, and was ornamented by deco “gargoyles” in the form stainless steel radiator cap decorations. The base of the tower, thirty-three stories above the street, was decorated with colorful art deco friezes, and the lobby was decorated with art deco symbols and images expressing modernity.

The Chrysler Building was followed by Empire State Building and the RCA Building (now the Comcast Building) in Rockefeller Center, which altogether completely changed the skyline of New York.

The tops of the buildings were decorated with Art Deco crowns and spires covered with stainless steel, and in the case of the Chrysler building, with Art Deco gargoyles modeled after radiator ornaments, while the entrances and lobbies were lavishly decorated with Art Deco sculpture, ceramics, and design. The Chrysler Building was soon surpassed in height by the Empire State Building, in a slightly less lavish Deco style. Rockefeller Center added a new design element; several tall building grouped around an open plaza, with a fountain in the center.

After World War II the dominant architectural style became the International Style. After World War II the style largely vanished, except in industrial design, where it continued to be used in automobile styling and products such as juke boxes. In the 60's, it experienced a modest academic revival, thanks in part to the writings of architectural historians.

In the 70's efforts were made in the United States and Europe to preserve the best examples of Art Deco architecture, and many buildings were restored and re-purposed. Postmodern architecture, which first appeared in the 1980's, like Art Deco, often includes purely decorative features. Art Deco continues to inspire designers, and is often used in contemporary fashion, jewelry, and toiletries.