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Art Deco: The American Architecture Influence

Updated on March 25, 2009

An Eclectic Form Of Elegant And Stylish Modernism

Art Deco was all the rage internationally as an art design movement from 1925 until 1939. Art Deco influenced every form of the aesthetic arts, such as architecture, interior design, industrial design, and even the visual arts including fashion, painting, graphic arts and film. The Art Deco style exemplified elegance, glamor, sleek- yet functional, and smoothly modern.

The movement was a sort of a hybrid of many different classic styles, that was touched by movements from the early 20th century, including Cubism, Modernism, Art Nouveau, and Futurism. In Europe, the popularity of Art Deco hit its full stride during the "Roaring Twenties," but Art Deco flourished well into the 1930s in America. Unlike many past design movements that were inspired by political,or philosophical origins. Art Deco was created to be purely decorative. Art Deco experienced a revival, with the help of graphic design, in the 1980s. The Art Deco has had an influence on many artistic movements, such as Pop art.

Many calssic examples of Art Deco's influence can be seen in many countries, from all over the world. Surviving Art Deco architecture can be seen in just about every major citiy from, the United Kingdom, Spain, Cuba, the Philippines, Romania, New Zealand, to Brazil. Some of the most well-known examples of Art Deco architecture can be found in New York City. Take for instance, the Chrysler building, which is possibly the shining star of the achitecture design movement. 

Art Deco is concidered to be an eclectic form of elegant and stylish modernism, which has been influenced by a wide range of sources. Among them were the arts of Africa, Ancient Egypt,and Aztec Mexico. Art Deco also drew on mathematics, such as geometry, but also on so-called streamline technology, modern aviation, electric lighting, the radio, ocean liners and the skyscraper for inspiration. It is the streamline modern style that is mostly associated with Art Deco. 

Art Deco Architecture In London.

New York's Deco Style

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Art Deco: New York Architecture

In New York, Art Deco can be seen as the chief architectual language in the skyscrapers of the Manhattan skyline. New York’s Art Deco buildings survive as prized remnants of a distant yet modern past that still help define the city’s visual identity. Art Deco has helped create the image of New York City as the world’s Modern Metropolis.

The Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is a 102-story Art Deco skyscraper in New York City, New York at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and West 34th Street. Its name comes from the state's nickname. The Empire State Building had stood as the world's tallest building for more than forty years, from its completion in 1931 until construction of the World Trade Center's North Tower was completed in 1972. Following the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001, the Empire State Building became for the second time, the tallest building in New York City.

The Chrysler Building

The white brick clad building, with it's accent in horizontal dark gray brickwork that enhances the windows, and famous crescent-shaped steps of the spire (spire scaffolding) that were made of stainless steel (or rather, chrome-nickel steel) as a stylized sunburst motif, and underneath it steel gargoyles, American eagles, stare over the city. Sculptures modeled after Chrysler automobile radiator caps decorate the lower setbacks, along with ornaments of car wheels. The lobby is lavishly decorated with Red Moroccan marble walls, sienna-coloured floor and onyx, blue marble and steel. 

The General Electric Building

The General Electric Building was originally known as the "RCA Victor Building" and is sometimes known by its address to avoid confusion with the later GE Building at 30 Rockefeller Center. The building is a stylized Gothic tower with its own identity, a classic Art Deco visual statement of power through simplification. The base contains elaborate, generous masonry, architectural figure sculpture, and at on the corner above the main entrance, a corner clock with the curvy GE logo and a pair of silver disembodied forearms. The crown of the building is a dynamic-looking burst of Gothic tracery, which is supposed to represent radio waves, which is lit from within at night.

The Barclay- Vesey Building

Built for the New York Telephone Company and named after the streets that border it to the north and south.The building is considered to be the first Art Deco skyscraper and its designers were awarded the Architectural League of New York's gold medal. The entrances are decorated with bronze reliefs with a main theme of bells, the symbol of the Bell Telephone Company. A neo-Romanesque vaulted ceiling with murals the whole length of the Vesey Street side.

Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center is a complex of 19 commercial buildings covering 22 acres between 48th and 51st Streets in New York City. Built by the Rockefeller family, it is located in the center of Midtown Manhattan, spanning between Fifth Avenue and Seventh Avenue. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987. It is the largest privately held complex of its kind in the world, and an international symbol of modernist architectural style blended with capitalism.

Art Deco In Melbourne

Miami's Deco Style

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Art Deco: Miami Architecture

Miami Beach’s building boom came during the second phase of Art Deco known as Streamline Moderne, which began with the stock market crash and ended in most cases with the outbreak of World War II. It was less decorative a more sober reflection of the Great Depression. It relied more on machine-inspired forms, and American ideas in industrial design. These buildings feature relief ornamentation featuring whimsical flora, fauna and ocean-liner motifs to reinforce the image of Miami Beach as a seaside resort.

The Tiffany Hotel

A child of 1939, it flaunted eyebrows, rounded corners and streamlined design. The Tiffany is less whimsical and more Buck Rogers. With its dramatic spire on top, it looks like a prop from an old sci-fi serial, or a space vessel, ready to take flight.

The Waldorf Towers Hotel

The Waldorf Towers Hotelis recognizable by its signature watchtower. This building was actually condemned at one point and taken down, only to be later replaced. Its colorful facade, a mix of pink and yellow and cream, drew its inspiration from the palette of Leonard Horowitz, who envisioned South Beach as an adult playground, which, “unlike the manufactured environments of places like Disneyworld and Epcot, is a real neighorhood, a setting which, while possessing the convenience of the 80’s, would retain the rich atmosphere of the 30’s.” Unfortunately, Leonard Horowitz didn’t live long enough to enjoy the fruits of his efforts: he died in 1989.

Miami Beach Post Office

This building was manufactured in a “stripped classic” design, in a style known as Depression Moderne. By 1977, it had seen better days, and was petitioned to the federal government to refurbish it, which thet did. Inside, muralist Charles Hardman, created an elaborate painting of Ponce de Leon’s invasion of Florida. Overhead, the ceiling mural features a radiant sun, ablaze in a forest green sky.

Old City Hall

It was constructed in a Mediterranean Neo-Classical design, with four urns placed in the topmost balcony, in defiance of future hurricanes. They’re still there, apparently unmoved by any storm, which, unfortunately, is more than I can say for the building beneath. It appears to be undergoing some intense renovations, with no end in sight. By the 70’s this City Hall was replaced by a larger building.

The Commodore Hotel

It was made from inexpensive materials, featuring concrete block facades. This Art Deco creation is rich in ornamentals specific to the period: eyebrows, curved corners, and four round emblems, called “bosses” descending along the side, which provided an “odd charm” to the place, but also fodder for the anti-preservationists, who claimed that “eyesores” like this weren’t worth preserving.

Art Deco Buildings In Napier New Zealand

The Style Of Opulence

Art Deco was an opulent style. Its rich, festive character fitted "modern" styles, including the Golden Gate Bridge, interiors of cinema theaters (a prime example being the Paramount Theater in Oakland, California) and ocean liners such as the Île de France, and the Queen Mary. Art Deco was used extensively throughout the United States' train stations in the 1930s, it was designed to reflect the modernity and efficiency of the train. The first Art Deco train station in the United States was the Union Station in Omaha, Nebraska.

 Art Deco made use of many distinctive styles, but one of the most significant of its features was its dependence upon a range of motifs.The style in the words of F.Scott Fitzgerald, "the distinctive style of Art Deco was shaped by 'all the nervous energy stored up and expended in the War".

Art Deco is characterized by use of materials such as aluminium, stainless steel, lacquer and inlaid wood.Exotic materials such as sharkskin (shagreen), and zebraskin were also used in evidence. The bold use of stepped forms, sweeping curves,  chevron patterns, and the sunburst motif are typical of Art Deco.

Art Deco Havana, Cuba


Submit a Comment

  • Glass-Jewelry profile image

    Marco Piazzalunga 

    5 years ago from Presezzo, Italy

    The Art Deco Historic Districts in Miami, is not a real district in the administrative sense of the term, but an area of ​​the city of Miami Beach that includes the streets Espanola Way, Collins / Washington Avenues, Museum and Flamingo Park, which together form the National Register Art Deco District, the first neighborhood of the twentieth century to be recognized historical and artistic.

    Beautiful Hub!

  • profile image

    Architects North Wales 

    7 years ago

    Fantastic hub and choice of Art Deco architecture and buildings.

    I find it amazing looking back at old photos of art deco buildings and knowing that they were designed and constructed without the technology which is available today which makes it all the more special.

    Very enjoyable hub, thank you

  • profile image

    al saulso  

    8 years ago

    just found a whole lot of early 1920's photographs of art deco buildings. Loved the style!!

  • profile image

    David Thompson 

    9 years ago

    Great collection of deco buildings from all over the place.

  • St.James profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Lurking Around Florida

    IslandVoice... Thank you Architecture is an amazing art form. I'm sure your daugther is learning a lot, including a heavy appreciation.

    Ralph Deeds... Thank you, sir. I'm happy you took the time to visit for a bit.

  • Ralph Deeds profile image

    Ralph Deeds 

    9 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

    Nice job St.J.

  • IslandVoice profile image

    Sylvia Van Velzer 

    9 years ago from Hawaii

    Love this St James! I'm blown away and once more realize why i'm so fascinated with art, art forms, to include architecture and art deco. My daughter who lived and studied interior designing in NY will enjoy this hub as well.


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