Art Deco, a shortened version of the French phrase Arts Décoratifs, is an architectural and product design style that originated in pre-WW1 France and became popular in the USA and Europe from the 1920’s-1930’s. Significant people in Art Deco included Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann, Jean Dunand, and Pierre Chareau (1). Major influences for the Art Deco style include cubism, bauhaus, and constructivism (2). In general, Art Deco can be described as a combination of modern design and pre-war craftsmanship and intricacy. The motivation behind Art Deco was to present designs as being modern yet eliciting luxury and glamor. Some prominent examples of Art Deco include the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, the Chrysler Building in New York City, and Empire State building.
Eastern Colombia Building
The Art Deco design movement permeated not just architecture, but also consumer design. Since the inception of Art Deco, there have been many influences on its aesthetic. One of these is streamlining and aerodynamics, which began being integrated into Art Deco in the early 1930s (3). One of my favorite examples of Art Deco design is the 1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic (4). This car combined the intricacy and grandeur of Art Deco design with the newly emerging trend of streamlining to create one of the most memorable instances of Art Deco design in automobiles.
Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic
One example of Art Deco design here in Boulder is the County Courthouse. Constructed in 1933, it was made at the tail end of the USA’s Art Deco movement. This building can be characterized as Art Deco due to the modern overall design combined with ornate and streamlined details prominently featured on its facade. In addition, we have the Boulder Theater. Again, we have a simple and modern basic shape for the building, with the addition of major flourishes that evoke luxury and grandeur.
In the modern day, Art Deco has yet to have a major resurgence. Rather most cities focus on preserving Art Deco structures. However, emphasis has been placed on integrating Art Deco’s intricate patterns and vivid colors in modern design. An example of this is shown below:
Model of a London Bus Stop
As I think of art deco, it reminds me of the movie “The Great Gatsby,” with its black and gold designs of geometric shapes, lines, and steps. The art deco-inspired buildings still around us today remind me of when it was easier to build simple, clean shapes that looked streamlined than today’s complex architecture. I enjoyed your examples of the art deco buildings right here in Boulder, as I had never noticed them till now.
Do you think there could be a resurgence of art deco style as people strive for simplistic luxury? I feel like I’ve seen a few art deco-inspired furniture and fixtures while in luxury hotels.
Thank you for the comment Hayden! I think there could definitely be a resurgence of art deco in the modern day. In particular, the color palette of art deco is seeing rising popularity. I see a lot of light pastel colors and patterns increasingly used in consumer goods and clothing.
A great read and a great take on the Art Deco aesthetic. I especially enjoyed the sections detailing the influence of Art Deco on streamlined and aerodynamic car designs. I was also pleasantly surprised by the examples of Art Deco-influenced Boulder architecture. Modern design has moved in a much different direction now, with sharper edges, futuristic, and less colorful designs. Do you think that the Art Deco style or an updated version of it could see a resurgence in the future?
Hi there Ali, thank you for your thoughts! I believe that an updated version of art deco could become more mainstream in the future. Some examples that come to mind are with cars, particularly EVs. A hallmark of art deco styling is streamlining and simplicity, both of which go hand in hand with aerodynamics. As automakers try to increase the range of their EVs, they make cars with art deco styling hints (an example is the Hyundai Ioniq 6).