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Art Deco Architecture: A Brief Introduction

Saumya Verma

7 min read

July 14, 2023

blog

Table of Contents

Art Deco is a style of visual arts, architecture, and product design that first appeared in France in the 1910s and became popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Influenced by Art Nouveau, the Bauhaus, Cubism, and Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, the style was characterised by its simple and clean shapes, bold colours, and luxurious materials. In this article, we will understand what Art Deco meaning is, its key characteristics, and its emergence, as well as look at some examples of the art deco style architecture.

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Understanding Art Deco Architecture

Chrysler Building, New York City-1

History of Art Deco Architecture

The name “Art Deco” was derived from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, held in Paris in 1925. The art and architectural style were first exhibited there with the Art Deco characteristics. Some of the most influential art deco artists and architects included famous furniture designers Jacques Ruhlmann and Maurice Dufrène; renowned architect Eliel Saarinen; revered metalsmith Jean Puiforcat; and, regarded as one of the greatest, glass and jewellery designer René Lalique.

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What is Art Deco Architecture?

According to Jared Goss, "Art Deco"  is, “an umbrella term for the wide variety of design and architecture created worldwide between the First and Second World Wars.” The Art Deco style architecture reached its peak in the 1920s and 1930s and is characterised by its sleek, geometric designs, luxurious materials, and bold use of colour. 
After a century since the inception of the art deco movement history, architects and designers have started looking at the past for design inspiration, and Art Deco Architecture is witnessing a comeback. 

Discover what lies more deeply in the architectural style: The Revival of Art Deco

Chrysler Building, New York City

Key Characteristics of Art Deco Architecture

Through its flamboyant features, the Art Deco style architecture is characterised by geometric shapes, bold colours, luxurious materials, and futuristic design art deco style elements. Let’s discuss these art deco architecture characteristics further in detail below.

1. Geometric Shapes in Art Deco Style Architecture

Modernity has always been the principal element of Art Deco design, and artists and architects typically expressed the concept of “modern” with geometry. These geometric shapes included triangles, circles, squares, and rectangles. These shapes were often used to create bold and dramatic patterns as well as to convey a sense of order, symmetry, and precision.

2. Bold colours in Art Deco Architecture

Bright and opulent colours are synonymous with the Art Deco period. These Art Deco Buildings incorporate stark colours like black and white or gold and silver to create contrast. Some of the most famous art deco style architecture buildings feature bold colour schemes and striking contrasts are the Empire State Building in New York City and the Hoover Building in London.

3. Luxurious materials in Art Deco Architecture

Art Deco architecture features luxurious and exotic materials such as ebony, ivory, silk, marble, brass, chrome, and exotic woods. These materials were often used lavishly and ornately and were intended to convey a sense of luxury, sophistication, and elegance.

4. Using Modern Materials in Art Deco Style Architecture

In the era of Art Deco Architecture, architects were seen embracing taller buildings with intricate designs, and modern art deco style elements like stainless steel, reinforced concrete, plate glass, chrome plating, plastic, mass-produced aluminium, etc.

A detail on window, Rajjab Mahal, Oval Maidan, India  

Examples of Art Deco Style Architecture Projects

The Art Deco style elements were widely used in various fields such as architecture, interior design, fashion, graphic design, and product design. Below, let us look at some examples of the Art Deco style in architecture.

1. Chrysler Building, USA

Chrysler Building, USA-1

Project Architect: William Van Alen 
Opened: 1930

The Chrysler Building was briefly the tallest building in the world before being surpassed by the Empire State Building. The key art deco characteristics of the building, including its distinctive crown made up of seven radiating terraced arches, highlight the Art Deco style architecture. The lobby is decorated with murals, and the elevators feature intricate designs.

2. Empire State Building, USA

Empire State Building, USA

Project Architects: Yasuo Matsui, William F. Lamb, Arthur Loomis Harmon, Gregory Johnson 
Opened: 1931

This Art Deco style architecture building is a 102-storey skyscraper in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, United States of America. The building was completed in the art deco style elements and had features such as animal figures, a high level of ornamentation, and the use of metallic colours and dramatic shapes.

3. Miami Beach Art Deco District, Florida 

Miami Beach Art Deco District, Florida

Project Architects : Henry Hohauser and L. Murray Dixon.
Opened: 1930-1940

The historic district of Miami Beach brings alive the art deco architecture features and styles of the 1920s and 1930s and is home to 960 historic Art Deco buildings. The district has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1979 and contains 800 designated historic buildings. There is also a daily walking tour offered by the Miami Design Preservation League.

4. Radio City Music Hall, New York City

Radio City Music Hall, New York City

Project Architects: Edward Durell Stone and Donald Deskey
Opened: 1932

A part of the Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall has been the world’s largest indoor theatre for over eighty years. The theatre hosts elegant Art Deco style elements, interiors and complex stage machinery. Donald Desky, the interior designer of the hall, designed over 30 interior spaces, each with their own unique visual motif, and used luxurious materials characteristic of the art deco style like gold and marble.

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In Conclusion

Art Deco was an influential art and design movement known for its bold, glamorous, and futuristic style. Although Art Deco style architecture fell out of favour for a time, it has once again become popular in recent years. The revival of Art Deco is a testament to its enduring popularity and timeless appeal. 

That’s it! Make sure to check out our Resources page for more informative reads.

Interested in learning more about more complex architecture forms and their design techniques? Here’s something that might interest you: 

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