Even in Manhattan—a sea of skyscrapers—the Empire State Building towers over its neighbours. Since its completion in 1931 it has been one of the most iconic architectural landmarks in the United States, standing as the tallest structure in the world until the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were constructed in Downtown Manhattan four decades later. Its construction in the early years of the Great Depression, employing thousands of workers and requiring vast material resources, was driven by more than commercial interest: the Empire State Building was to be a monument to the audacity of the United States of America, “a land which reached for the sky with its feet on the ground.”
With its iconic copper-clad tower looming over Wilshire Boulevard, the Bullock’s Wilshire has been a celebrated element of the Los Angeles cityscape since its opening in 1929. Known for its lavish Art Deco aesthetic, the department store made its mark as a prime shopping destination in a city filled with celebrities. But the Bullock’s Wilshire was more than a glamorous retail space; with a design centered around the automobile, it was to set a new standard for how businesses adapted to a rapidly changing urban environment.
The end of the First World War did not mark the end of struggle in Europe. France, as the primary location of the conflict’s Western Front, suffered heavy losses in both manpower and industrial productivity; the resulting economic instability would plague the country well into the 1920s. It was in the midst of these uncertain times that the French would signal their intention to look not to their recent troubled past, but to a brighter and more optimistic future. This signal came in the form of the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exposition of Decorative Arts and Modern Industries) of 1925 – a landmark exhibition which both gave rise to a new international style and, ultimately, provided its name: Art Deco.
Upon opening its doors for the first time on a rainy winter’s night in 1932, the Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan was proclaimed so extraordinarily beautiful as to need no performers at all. The first built component of the massive Rockefeller Center, the Music Hall has been the world’s largest indoor theater for over eighty years. With its elegant Art Deco interiors and complex stage machinery, the theater defied tradition to set a new standard for modern entertainment venues that remains to this day.
In a short but prodigious career Raymond Mathewson Hood (March 29, 1881 – August 14, 1934) had an outsized influence on twentieth century architecture. Born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Hood was the son of a box manufacturer in an affluent Baptist family. He attended Brown University before studying at MIT School of Architecture, later graduating from the École des Beaux-Arts in 1911. While in Paris, Hood met John Mead Howells, who in 1922 would select him as a partner for the design of the Chicago Tribune Tower. The team would beat out many more avant-garde entries by the likes of Walter Gropius, Adolf Loos, and Eliel Saarinen, with their own Neo-Gothic edifice that mimicked the Butter Tower of Rouen Cathedral.
Dallas Architecture Forum, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing public education about architecture, design and the urban environment, will continue its 2015-2016 Panel Discussion Series on January 26, 2016 with “Making Fair Park Work.” Moderated by Mark Lamster, Dallas Morning News Architecture Critic, this panel is presented in partnership with the Dallas Festival of Ideas and the College of Architecture Planning and Public Affairs (CAPPA) at the University of Texas at Arlington.
On Saturday, July 4, designer Prada and AMO—a research studio subset of OMA architecture—hosted The Miu Miu Club, a pop-up event, featuring dinner, a fashion show, and several musical performances in Paris, France.
Inside of the 1937 art deco Palais d-Iena, Paris’ current CESE government offices, the one-night event was held in the Hypostyle, using a scaffolding ring to create a “room within a room.” Strip lighting, metal grids, PVC sheets, and arrangements of luxurious furniture were also used to enhance the space.
No architect played a greater role in shaping the twentieth century Manhattan skyline than Ralph Thomas Walker, winner of the 1957 AIA Centennial Gold Medal and a man once dubbed “Architect of the Century” by the New York Times.  But a late-career ethics scandal involving allegations of stolen contracts by a member of his firm precipitated his retreat from the architecture establishment and his descent into relative obscurity. Only recently has his prolific career been popularly reexamined, spurred by a new monograph and a high-profile exhibit of his work at the eponymous Walker Tower in New York in 2012.
“A hundred times have I thought New York is a catastrophe, and fifty times: It is a beautiful catastrophe.” Le Corbusier
This architecture city guide celebrates Modernism in one of the world's greatest cities: New York. We embark on an architectural journey through nearly a century of innovative, revolutionary architecture: from early 20th century, revivalist Beaux-Arts; to machine-age Art Deco of the Inter-War period; to the elegant functionalism of the International Style; to the raw, exposed Brutalism characteristic of the Post-War years; and, finally, to the splendid forms of organic architecture. From world-renowned landmarks to undiscovered jewels, we invite you to explore the 2,028 blocks that make Manhattan an architectural mecca for citizens around the world.
Find our special AD city guide after the break...
This article comes courtesy of Charlotte Neilson, the author of the fascinating design blog Casting Architecture. Her column, Through the Lens, will look at architecture and production design in TV and film.
The categorisation of period architecture generally remains firmly in the realm of the professional or amateur enthusiast - let’s face it, you can go through life without knowing the difference between a Corinthian and Ionic column without too much inconvenience. Oddly, however, most people are able to name a few of the main features of Art Deco architecture fairly easily - the curved corners, stylised forms, the use of bakelite and chrome, the transport motifs.
It’s interesting that this period is so much more familiar to us, considering it spanned quite a short timeframe compared to other architectural styles; the Arts and Crafts and Art Noveau movements, for example, which both occurred in a similar time frame to Art Deco, are much less known to the wider community.
It’s possible of course that Art Deco is just more omnipresent because of its universal appeal, or its uniqueness, but I think most of the credit should go to Monsieur Hercule Poirot.
Learn more about Agatha Christie’s contribution to Art Deco, after the break...
Like no other style, Art Deco represents a built manifestation of the interwar period’s enthusiasm and splendor. In London, buildings of this era reflect the elegance, progress and assertiveness that describe the modern metropolis age. Even today, these buildings have lost none of their aura and appeal, yet they lack any proper documentation.
Together, Niels Lehmann and Christoph Rauhut have worked tirelessly for the past three years researching and photographing London’s architectural Art Deco heritage. With your help, they will feature over 230 buildings with large-scaled photographs in the soon-to-be published book “Modernism London Style.” Follow this link to become a supporter and learn more.
Continue after the break to view more photos.