“I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”
– Nick Carraway. The Great Gatsby
The Empire State
The Eastern Columbia
Just uttering the names of these buildings brings a wistful smile and nostalgic thoughts of extraordinary elegance and glamour. Mental pictures of the roaring twenties with all of it’s over-the-top opulence and voracious energy, as well as the beginning of modernity with it’s melding of industrial mass produced elements within the confines of accepted symmetry and classical patterns. The common element running through all of this extraordinary time period, Art Deco design.
Art Deco, short for Arts Décoratifs, is a visual arts and design style that is found in all sorts of disciplines and products, but its influence in architecture can be identified in geometric forms that draw on cubism, rich materials and bold colours. The aesthetic emerged in France in the 1920s, from the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts held in Paris. It quickly spread internationally and influenced major projects all over the world.
I appreciate and enjoy all types of thoughtful, deliberate and inspired design – but for me, Art Deco is a pinnacle of architecture and design. The moment when outrageously whimsical patterns, colors and designs intersected with sophisticated, balanced and historic baselines.
The Roman architect Vitruvius probably summed it best when he stated the core principal qualities necessary for well-designed buildings as “firmitas, utilitas, and venustas” or “firmness, utility and delightful aesthetics.”
Firmness – the building first of all needs to be structural sound and secure
Utility – efficient arrangement of spaces and systems must meet the functional needs of its occupants
Delight –the latin word ”venustas”, was based on the aesthetic qualities associated with the goddess Venus. Therefore, the building should have a remarkable style, elegant proportions, and visual beauty.
Based on these principles, Art Deco has to be in the running for one of the most powerful and timeless styles ever!
I’ve assembled a few of my favorites (aside from some of the most popular named above). I hope you enjoy taking a look at these classic and modern takes on art deco design. Let me know what your favorite Art Deco Buildings are as well!
- Eden Teatro
Located in one of my favorite cities, Lisbon Portugal, I had no idea this building was here and couldn’t believe my eyes when we stumbled upon it on our first day walking down the Praça dos Restauradores.
The Teatro Eden building is a sterling example of Art Deco at its best. Opened as a theatre and cinema for silent films in 1931.
- Guardian Building
It is known as Detroit’s Cathedral of Finance.
Still one of the tallest brick buildings in the world with nearly 2 million bricks used for it’s facade. The Guardian is a true explosion of color, craftsmanship and blending of Native American, Aztec, and Arts & Crafts influences through the lavish use of elegant and timeless materials throughout the building.
- American Radiator Building
In a city known for its towering skyscrapers, the American Radiator Building commands immediate attention with its unique black and gold facade. The architects combined Gothic and modern styles in the design of the building. Black brick was used on the frontage of the building to symbolize coal and upper parts of the facade were covered in gold bricks to symbolize fire.
- Times Square Building
How could I talk about some of my favorite art Deco buildings without mentioning one of my hometown favorites. Located in Rochester New York (Not Manhattan), this Art Deco building literally scrapes the sky with its iconic four “Wings of Progress”. Made out of aluminum, each 42’ tall wing weighs 12,000 pounds each.
- Pine Ave Townhouses
Cera Stribley Architects teamed with interior design studio The Stella Collective on a series of eight, three-storey townhouses in a Melbourne suburb that reflect the area’s art deco architecture that is known for its large period houses, many from the 1920s and -30s.
- The St Regis Hong Kong
Designed and curated by famed architect Andre Fu, the St Regis Hong Kong opened in 2019 to critical acclaim. Fu’s initial inspiration for the hotel’s design was the original St Regis hotel, in New York. Fu infused the same Art Deco ideology with his childhood recollections of historic Hong Kong, resulting in a design that evokes the grandeur of 1920s New York with the culture of Hong Kong and its colonial past.
- One Bennett Park
Clad in a beautiful, pre-cast, concrete facade evocative of the stone exteriors of decades’ past, One Bennett Park has borrowed heavily from the toolkit of previous generations. In particular, the overtly Art Deco themes found across the structure recall the Windy City’s architectural heyday, right down to the finer details – such as the metal-framed windows, wrought-iron fences, and decorative lamps.
Now it’s your turn– Let us know in the comments below what your favorite Art Deco Buildings are!
10+ year industry veteran and multiple-time Distinguished Achiever award winner and 2017 Richmond’s Finest Business Professional.