Art Deco Architecture

The term “Art Deco” comes from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes, held in Paris in 1925. Guidelines for this exposition of decorative arts called for original entries with modern inspiration; “reproductions, imitations and counterfeits of ancient styles” were prohibited. However, elements of many exotic design traditions were incorporated into the Art Deco style including Egyptian geometric motifs and the stepping and setbacks of ancient ziggurats. More than 16 million visitors saw thousands of new designs at the Exposition, and the popularity of the new designs on display spread quickly around the world. The Art Deco style was soon applied to architecture, furniture, jewelry, fashion, product design, and the graphic arts.

In the United States, Art Deco architecture was most commonly chosen for commercial and public buildings. Associated with Hollywood glamour, Art Deco designs were especially popular for entertainment-related buildings such as movie theatres. Looking to the modern machine age for inspiration rather the historical tradition, the Art Deco style was a dramatic departure from the Revival Styles that had previously dominated twentieth century architecture. Iconic examples of Art Deco design include the Empire State Building and oceanfront buildings of Miami Beach. Though originally associated with the prosperity of the Roaring Twenties, the Art Deco style remained popular throughout the Depression of the Thirties. It was an escapist style associated with luxury, fantasy, and the future.

Characteristic Features

  • Linear buildings with hard corners (unlike the rounded corners of the Art Moderne style) and vertical emphasis created by towers and other vertical projections including stepped facades and parapet walls
  • Stylized, geometric patterns used as decorative motifs. Patterns include zigzags, chevron and lozenge, sunrise, and floral. Stylized, low-relief figure sculpture is also common.
  • Decoration is commonly placed around doorways, on spandrel panels between windows, and on parapet walls. The decoration is commonly in the same material as the building or in metal, glazed brick, or mosaic tile.
  • Windows are typically sash or casement with metal frames

Examples of Colorado New Deal Projects in the Art Deco Style