What is Art Deco Architecture?

What is Art Deco Architecture?

Art Deco architecture derives from a style of visual arts of the same name that emerged in Europe in the 1920s, which also influenced the movie industry, fashion, interior design, graphic design, sculpture, painting, and other forms of art, in addition to architecture. The milestone of this style was the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts held in Paris in 1925, from which it took its name.

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Just like in the many fields influenced by this style, Art Deco architecture combines modern design with traditional elements such as exquisite craftsmanship and luxurious materials including jade, lacquer, and ivory. As a successor to the Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau movements, Art Deco was also influenced by the abstract and geometric forms of Cubism, the bright colors of Fauvism, and the exoticized crafts and styles of countries such as China, Japan, and Egypt. The decorative aspect and the compositional arrangements also derive from Beaux-Arts architecture, through symmetry, straight lines, hierarchy in the floor plan distribution, and facades divided into base, shaft, and capital (Classical tripartite division) - although this time with more rational volumes and the occasional use of ornaments. It was a lavish mixture of styles that was embraced by the wealthy post-war bourgeoisie.

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"The Chrysler Building" by AdeRussell is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

From the 1930s, however, the style began to establish a closer dialogue with industrial manufacturing and the possibility of mass production. During this period, Art Deco becomes more moderate and sober, incorporating materials such as concrete and stainless steel. The most iconic works of the style emerged at this time, including the Chrysler Building, the Rockefeller Center, and the Empire State Building, all in New York, introducing a new language to the skyscrapers that changed the city's skyline, reflecting a new modern and technological society. These buildings reveal some of the most striking characteristics of the style, which contributed to its consolidation in the history of architecture. Among them is the use of reinforced concrete, straight lines, clean rectangular shapes, terraced buildings, sharp angles, chevrons, and zigzags. The latter is a striking feature of the Chrysler Building's elevators and shows that the patterns spread beyond the façade into the interior spaces.

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"Rockefeller Center" by Franco Folini is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Besides the New York skyscrapers of the early 20th century, the city of Rio de Janeiro also featured several notable examples of this style, such as the Carlos Gomes Theater and the Central do Brasil Station, with its staircases, stained glass windows, signs, among other elements. The sculpture of Christ the Redeemer, one of Rio's most famous landmarks, is an Art Deco piece and is considered to be the largest sculpture of this style to date.

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Photo by Kelly Repreza, via Unsplash

The fine line between the search for simplicity, especially when compared to previous movements, and the extravagance of its forms, was considered by many experts as a paradox. However, Art Deco architecture assumed an important role in history by representing the process of modernization of the urban landscape, balancing the elements of the past with new geometric configurations and ornamental references.

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Cite: Ghisleni, Camilla. "What is Art Deco Architecture?" [O que é arquitetura Art Déco?] 18 Nov 2021. ArchDaily. (Trans. Duduch, Tarsila) Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/972018/what-is-art-deco-architecture> ISSN 0719-8884

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