Art Deco architecture

Art Deco architecture is a very characteristic form of early 20th-century architecture that shaped the skylines of many cities around the world. Some of the most famous skyscrapers still standing and in daily use today, as well as many smaller buildings and structures, are in Art Deco style.

Chrysler Building, New York City

. . . Art Deco architecture . . .

Art Deco is short for Arts DécoratifsFrench for “Decorative Arts”—and originally referred to an exposition that took place in Paris in 1925. However, the movement encompassed much more than what people think of today as decorative art objects. Instead, Art Deco sought to combine functionality with a celebration of the technology of the Machine Age on the one hand and the beauty of decoration, including updated references to traditional and ancient motifs, on the other. Some of these motifs are geometric, while others involve depictions of foliage, animals, people or gods, or even hood ornaments from cars, as is the case on the Chrysler Building in New York City, which has such ornaments in place of gargoyles, high up on the sides of the building’s exterior. There was also a subset of Art Deco architecture that was specifically inspired by Mayan art. One example of this style is the Mayan Theater, now Club Mayan in Downtown Los Angeles. However, various ancient civilizations influenced the Art Deco style, including Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and Rome. In addition, the Cubist style in painting and sculpture also had an influence on Art Deco architecture, particularly some of the forms in Art Deco reliefs, and also inasmuch as Art Deco employed various shapes similar to some of those used in Cubist geometrical simplifications of natural forms.

Mayan Theater, Los Angeles
  • Curved lines Much Art Deco work has streamlined curves in it.
  • Doors Art Deco buildings often have characteristically decorated doors.
  • Lamps Interiors often have lamps with pleasant geometric designs.
  • Reliefs Reliefs on classical, neo-ancient or modernist subjects are an optional but relatively common feature of Art Deco façades.
  • Zig-zag lines Many Art Deco buildings, including loads of movie palaces throughout the world and the Empire State Building in New York City, have symmetrical zig-zag patterns (often a combination of horizontal and vertical lines, rather than diagonals), whether in their marquees or in the overall structure of the building.
Cathay Theatre, French Concession, Shanghai

. . . Art Deco architecture . . .

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. . . Art Deco architecture . . .

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