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


Donate to CPI

We hope you will extend your appreciation for Colorado's heritage by helping us take advantage of this $1 to $1 matching campaign. Learn more about our matching campaign and make your tax-deductible donation today!

Featured Project

Preservation for a Changing Colorado

Historic preservation has a direct economic benefit to communities and Colorado! Take a look at the 2017 study, which considered the ways adaption of historic places has a direct financial effect on the state.

This updated, most resent study, was the result of a partnership between Colorado Preservation, Inc and History Colorado, funded by a grant from History Colorado's State Historical Fund. Prepared by Clarion Associates, the new report document the economic benefits of rehabilitation projects, analyzes property values and neighborhood stability in local historic districts, and summarizes the increasing impact of heritage tourism, private preservation development and the success of Colorado’s Main Street program.

In a key finding, researchers determined that for every $1 million spent on historic preservation in Colorado it produced $1.03 million in additional spending, 14 new jobs, and $636,700 in increased household incomes across the state!

The 2017 report also considers the important role preservation plays in helping Coloradans provide new spaces for creative communities and co-working, create and sustain meaningful places, responds to the state’s changing demographics, and addresses climate concerns.

Click Here to see download and read the full report, "Preservation for a Changing Colorado".