Do You Know About the Art Deco Movement?

Do You Know About the Art Deco Movement?

The Art Deco movement for architecture may have been short lived (it was prominent from 1925-1940), but it greatly influenced some of the most famous buildings in the world. 


The Beginnings

image © Pixel77

image © Pixel77

Towards the end of the nineteenth century in France, a group of French artistic innovators created an organization called the Societé des Artistes Décorateurs (The Society of Decorative Artists). The group consisted of an assortment of well-known figures at the time such as Eugene Grasset, Hector Guiamard, Pierre Chareau and Francis Jourdain. The intention of the group was to revive the value of decorative artists since they had become undervalued after those involved with more classical painting and sculpting media were held with higher regard.

The French government supported the group and hosted the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs in Paris in 1925 as a way to allow architects, designers, and artists to display their work at the exhibition over the course of seven months.  The exhibition is commonly regarded as being the catalyst that began the movement. 


The First Art Deco Building

image © Pline

image © Pline

The first building said to exemplify the Art Deco movement is The Theatre Des Champs-Elysees designed by architect Auguste Perret. The theatre shows off the three most commonly used styles of the movement: the use of modern materials, the principles of mechanization through the ornamental details, and the embracing of technological innovation.

When looking at buildings of the era, you can see how architects were influenced by multiple prior principles of design like Cubism, Fauvism and of the Ballets Russes. According to the Wentworth studio, "The style was essentially one of applied decoration. Buildings were richly embellished with hard-edged, low-relief designs: geometric shapes, including chevrons and ziggurats; and stylized floral and sunrise patterns. Shapes and decorations inspired by Native American artwork were among the archetypes of the Art Deco lexicon." 


Characteristics of the Movement

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The most common materials used during the Art Deco movement include concrete, stucco, glazed brick, and mosaic tiles. Metal was also often used as an accent to the materials and to compliment the ornamentation of the building. When comparing the buildings of the movement, most are streamlined with a vertical emphasis that forces the eye to look upward. They are also typically rectangular structures that have a characteristics of being blocky and arranged geometrically. Occasionally some buildings featured rooftop spires instead of or in addition to the ornamental elements of the building. 

The buildings that used ornamentation created a collaborative environment of architects working with painters, sculptures, designers and machines to complete the design. Depending on the funding of the project, the embellishments would either be hand-crafted decorations or  machine-made repetitive designs.


Art Deco in North America

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Even though the movement originated in Paris, it still influenced other architects around the world to engage with the style.  The American Art Deco style took off in the 1930's, however, was considerably less ornamental than the European style. Although it still exemplified the use of strong curves, bold geometric shapes, and clean lines, it often times lacked the lavish ornamentation.  This isn't to say that none of the North American buildings had ornamentation. Especially since two of the more famous skyscrapers  - the Chrysler Building and The Empire State Building in New York are examples of the movement in America.


The End of the Art Deco Movement

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Despite the fact that the Art Deco movement ended in the 1940's, it will always be remembered as having significance on the design and build of many famous skyscrapers. In the future, it's unlikely to see the movement revived in its entirety, but we can expect to see it continue to influence designs in the years to come.  


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