Art Deco Architecture

The Old Modern - Then and Now

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32 notes &

On this day in 1935, Franklin Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration, the New Deal’s largest and most ambitious agency. During its run, which ended in 1943 and cost about $11 billion, the WPA employed 8.5 million out-of-work people on 1.4 million individual projects; it built 651,000 miles of roads, streets, and highways; constructed or repaired 124,000 bridges, 125,000 public buildings, more than 8,000 parks, and nearly 900 airport runways. The projects had to provide a real and lasting contribution, and could not take business away from private companies.
It wasn’t always the most efficient operation, however, and its critics gave it nicknames like “We Poke Along,” “We Play Around,” “We Piddle Around,” and “Working Piss Ants.” WPA employees were derided as “shovel-leaners,” an accusation John Steinbeck addressed in his essay “A Primer on the ’30s”: “It was the fixation of businessmen that the WPA did nothing but lean on shovels. I had an uncle who was particularly irritated at shovel-leaning. When he pooh-poohed my contention that shovel-leaning was necessary, I bet him five dollars, which I didn’t have, that he couldn’t shovel sand for fifteen timed minutes without stopping. He said a man should give a good day’s work and grabbed a shovel. At the end of three minutes his face was red, at six he was staggering and before eight minutes were up his wife stopped him to save him from apoplexy. And he never mentioned shovel-leaning again.”
http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2013/05/06 (via tumblngphilopoet)

Filed under wpa works progress administration 1930s new deal fdr history

34 notes &

B… Bangkok
Democracy Monument, Bangkok, Thailandby Aiden McRae Thompson
Deco mixed in with traditional Thai design elements.
From Flickr:

The Democracy Monument was erected in 1939 to commemorate the Siamise coup d’etat that ushered in initial military rule along with the present constitutional system of monarchy. There are thus references to the military in the four wing like structures surrounding the centrepiece and the relief sculptures at their bases.
The monument is an attractive late flowering of the Art Deco style and was a symbol of the country’s desire for modernisation. The very much 20th century forms are however combined with traditional Thai elements, particularly the sculptural elements such as the gilt bronze reliefs in the central structure and Garuda and Naga sculptures at the outer corners of the monument.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Monument

B… Bangkok

Democracy Monument, Bangkok, Thailand
by Aiden McRae Thompson

Deco mixed in with traditional Thai design elements.

From Flickr:

The Democracy Monument was erected in 1939 to commemorate the Siamise coup d’etat that ushered in initial military rule along with the present constitutional system of monarchy. There are thus references to the military in the four wing like structures surrounding the centrepiece and the relief sculptures at their bases.

The monument is an attractive late flowering of the Art Deco style and was a symbol of the country’s desire for modernisation. The very much 20th century forms are however combined with traditional Thai elements, particularly the sculptural elements such as the gilt bronze reliefs in the central structure and Garuda and Naga sculptures at the outer corners of the monument.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Monument

Filed under bangkok thailand southeast asia art deco architecture monument 1930s asian history thai history history

2 notes &

Penobscot Building

After that last batch of images, I really don’t think I will bother posting any more pictures of this one, because they were too amazing. But before we move on to some other Detroit Deco, here’s an essay from the Historic Detroit site:

Penobscot Building

BY DAN AUSTIN OF HISTORICDETROIT.ORG

The 47-story Greater Penobscot Building towers over Campus Martius, an Art Deco masterpiece that has dominated the city’s skyline for more than 80 years.

The building is named after a tribe of American Indians in New England. The name Penobscot means “the place where the rocks open out.” Simon J. Murphy, who made a fortune as a lumber baron before coming to Detroit, spent his youth working on the Penobscot River in Maine. As the nation moved west, Murphy’s lumber empire moved with it, and he settled in Detroit. When it came time to name his new building, his thoughts returned to his roots.

There are actually three Penobscot buildings. The first is the 13-story building Murphy erected in 1903. It was joined by a 24-story tower in 1916. The third, the 47-story tower known as the Greater Penobscot, was built at a cost of $5 million.

The Penobscot was the eighth-tallest building in the world when it opened in October 1928, and was the fourth tallest in the United States. At about 567 feet, it was the tallest building in Detroit until 1977, when it was surpassed by the 729-foot Renaissance Center. It is now the city’s third-tallest, also having been overshadowed in 1993 by Comerica Tower, which stands about 623 feet tall.

There is an urban legend that the building’s 100-foot tower with its winking red orb was once used as a port for a dirigible. In truth, it was simply an aviation beacon. These days, the tower and its blinking red light are simply for decoration. The orb, which is 12 feet in diameter, was first turned on when the building opened 79 years ago and can be seen 40 miles away.

The building has not been without controversy over its eight decades. For example, those are indeed swastikas adorning the exterior of the Penobscot, but they weren’t put there by Nazis. The swastikas are part of the building’s American Indian motif and symbolize sun worship. Suggestions during World War II to get rid of them were discarded. The swastikas on the Penobscot also are angled differently than those used in Nazi Germany.

Note: The bit about the swastikas being different is an example of the oft-repeated nonsense that one kind of swastika is good and another “bad.” In fact swastikas historically have pointed left and right and with many different angles and design variations. The swastika has been used all around the world and is still use (a lot) in some parts of the world, without any connection to Nazis. But often people will say “No, these swastikas are different than the Nazis” as if there’s a problem even if they are the same. More info here. (Yes, I will get off my soapbox.)

Filed under penobscot building art deco architecture detroit michigan history 1920s skyscraper swastika