Art Deco Architecture speaks to what is Art Deco architecture and define Art Deco.
This is the style of the 1920s and 1930s and was the last of the great decorative styles. The decorative motifs chosen were from many cultures and many historical periods which are readily recognizable in the pilasters and entablatures of classical architecture. Less obvious are the motifs from ancient Egyptian and pre-Columbian cultures such as pyramids and ziggurats.
There are naturalistic themes, animals, flowers, rainbows, fountains as well as references to the glories of the machine age in portrayals of bridges, oil wells, steamships and airplanes. Many motifs are simply geometrical, including zigzags, chevrons, stripes and spirals. The true spirit of Art Deco lay in its stylized treatment of these decorative devices. Everything is flattened and streamlined and has an air of stylishness and breathless speed that makes this architecture appears to be the very embodiment of the Jazz Age.
There are a variety of buildings in the Art Deco style but of note are the new highrises that punctuate the skylines of North American cities. Art Deco was stylishly popular for commercial properties especially big department stores and a few banks and government buildings. Overall their designs are classical in their symmetry, use of motifs, mouldings and specific proportions. Much of the motif was executed in stone, cast stone, bronze and steel. Interior materials include marble, black glass, terrazzo, fine wood and more bronze and steel. Murals and historical paintings were often included in the designs.
Art Deco was named for the Exposition Universale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Moderne held in Paris in 1925. This was the event that brought the style into public view. Art deco quickly became popular in North America. Frank Lloyd Wright designs accentuate this as seen in his asymmetrical prairie house structures.
Other architects appended Art Deco motifs to the skyscrapers that were just then being built in large numbers in North American cities. The shape of skyscraper design was set in New York City, where a city bylaw required tall buildings to be stepped back on their upper stories to allow air and light to penetrate to street level. The resulting ziggurat like quality of these structures seemed tailor made for the Art Deco style, although often the best decoration was applied to the topmost storeys, where it could not be seen from the street.