Art Deco Architecture

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26 notes &

From Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression by Morris Dickstein:

In product design they used materials like chrome, plastic, and aluminum, not the precious materials of early Deco; they oversaw the transition of elegance from the luxury market to the wider world of ordinary consumption. In the process they became figures of vast cultural influence as well as commercial wizards who, in a stagnant economy, could somehow sell products that exuded elegance, optimism, and energy.

It was one thing to use a sheath of metal to give an aerodynamic look to the sleek locomotive of the new Twentieth Century Limited. It was quite another to give the same look to farm equipment or to a household iron, a pencil sharpener, or a cigarette lighter, associating them too with the aesthetics of the machine, the modern, the thrust toward a utopian future.

Working with curved lines, they used bullet shapes to suggest dynamic force and teardrop shapes to imply graceful flow. They could make a teapot look like Aladdin’s lamp and give rounded, futuristic lines to a toaster, a mixmaster, or the Bakelite portable radios that could be found in every modest American home when I was a kid in the 1940s.

These new industrial products and their designs paved the way for the postwar world by democratizing consumption itself.

Photos: 1930s toasters, all pulled from eBay.

Filed under dancing in the dark morris dickstein great depression 1930s art history industrial design consumerism history american history 1940s toasters design

4 notes &

From Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression by Morris Dickstein:

A new generation of designers — Raymond Loewy, Donald Deskey, Norman Bel Geddes, Gilbert Rohde, Russel Wright, Walter Dorwin Teague — began working on the cusp between pleasure palaces and a much more broad-based consumerism. Donald Deskey designed the opulent interiors of the Radio City Music Hall and the private apartment of John D. Rockefeller but also tubular furniture for the classes and the masses. Raymond Loewy virtually created the field of industrial design, reshaping a duplicating machine for Gestetner, locomotives for the Pennsylvania Railroad, refrigerators for Sears-Roebuck, and automobiles for Studebaker. He designed the bull’s-eye on the Lucky Strike cigarette package and the logos for companies like Studebaker and Hoover, maker of vacuum cleaners.

Illustration: Vintage 1935 Lucky Strike ad. (For more vintage ads, visit the Ajax All Purpose Blog.)

From Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression by Morris Dickstein:

A new generation of designers — Raymond Loewy, Donald Deskey, Norman Bel Geddes, Gilbert Rohde, Russel Wright, Walter Dorwin Teague — began working on the cusp between pleasure palaces and a much more broad-based consumerism. Donald Deskey designed the opulent interiors of the Radio City Music Hall and the private apartment of John D. Rockefeller but also tubular furniture for the classes and the masses. Raymond Loewy virtually created the field of industrial design, reshaping a duplicating machine for Gestetner, locomotives for the Pennsylvania Railroad, refrigerators for Sears-Roebuck, and automobiles for Studebaker. He designed the bull’s-eye on the Lucky Strike cigarette package and the logos for companies like Studebaker and Hoover, maker of vacuum cleaners.

Illustration: Vintage 1935 Lucky Strike ad. (For more vintage ads, visit the Ajax All Purpose Blog.)

Filed under dancing in the dark morris dickstein great depression 1930s art deco design art history raymond loewy donald deskey industrial design packaging vintage advertising vintage retro lucky strike lucky strikes cigarettes

8 notes &

From Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression by Morris Dickstein:

Yet the minimalism of the later International Style was anticipated by developments in Deco after 1932. As the Depression deepened, the building boom of the late 1920s ended and the luxury of Deco design became an embarrassment, out of tune with the urgent stresses of the moment. In the streamlined Moderne style that soon dominated American design, Deco was transformed into something more clean-lined and horizontal, oriented less to pleasure than to speed and kinetic energy, an orientation toward the future at a time when many people were deeply fearful about what the future held in store.

Photo: A fine example of streamline, the Normandie Hotel, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The building was inspired by SS Normandie, the ship, and includes the ship’s original sign.

From Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression by Morris Dickstein:

Yet the minimalism of the later International Style was anticipated by developments in Deco after 1932. As the Depression deepened, the building boom of the late 1920s ended and the luxury of Deco design became an embarrassment, out of tune with the urgent stresses of the moment. In the streamlined Moderne style that soon dominated American design, Deco was transformed into something more clean-lined and horizontal, oriented less to pleasure than to speed and kinetic energy, an orientation toward the future at a time when many people were deeply fearful about what the future held in store.

Photo: A fine example of streamline, the Normandie Hotel, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The building was inspired by SS Normandie, the ship, and includes the ship’s original sign.

Filed under dancing in the dark great depression morris dickstein 1930s 1940s art history art deco art moderne streamline streamline moderne architecture normandie hotel hotel normandie ss normandie san juan puerto rico

16 notes &

From Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression by Morris Dickstein:

The Deco style spread to many other cities [outside NYC], and there were also more modest buildings, including apartment houses and movie theaters through which we could trace the shift of Deco from luxury design to a vernacular style still suggestive of luxury and elegance. As Rosemarie Bletter wrote in Skyscraper Style, “while the effects were on occasion vulgar, the intention was to create a mass modern.” That is to say, a vulgar modernism in both senses of the word: ostentatious, but also popular, playful, accessible — a vulgate of modernism.
None of this pleased the avatars of other, more exacting and minimal modernism, the so-called International Style, which received its name at a celebrated show at the Museum of Modern Art in 1932. Curated by the young Philip Johnson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock, the exhibition and its influential catalog were part polemic, part overview of the new architecture of the preceding decade. This style, which would carry the day after the war, banned most decoration, favored glass and steel over terra-cotta and stone, and propelled American architecture toward a more austere functionalism.

Photo of 151 W. Burton Place, Chicago, IL, by ChicagoGeek. If I’m reading the Flickr description correctly, this building actually dates to the 1880s was was remodeled in the early 1930s to reflect this new “vulgate of modernism.”

From Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression by Morris Dickstein:

The Deco style spread to many other cities [outside NYC], and there were also more modest buildings, including apartment houses and movie theaters through which we could trace the shift of Deco from luxury design to a vernacular style still suggestive of luxury and elegance. As Rosemarie Bletter wrote in Skyscraper Style, “while the effects were on occasion vulgar, the intention was to create a mass modern.” That is to say, a vulgar modernism in both senses of the word: ostentatious, but also popular, playful, accessible — a vulgate of modernism.

None of this pleased the avatars of other, more exacting and minimal modernism, the so-called International Style, which received its name at a celebrated show at the Museum of Modern Art in 1932. Curated by the young Philip Johnson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock, the exhibition and its influential catalog were part polemic, part overview of the new architecture of the preceding decade. This style, which would carry the day after the war, banned most decoration, favored glass and steel over terra-cotta and stone, and propelled American architecture toward a more austere functionalism.

Photo of 151 W. Burton Place, Chicago, IL, by ChicagoGeek. If I’m reading the Flickr description correctly, this building actually dates to the 1880s was was remodeled in the early 1930s to reflect this new “vulgate of modernism.”

Filed under dancing in the dark great depression 1930s morris dickstein art deco architecture history american architecture modernism modern architecture international style philip johnson henry-russell hitchcock

2 notes &

From Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression by Morris Dickstein:

[Ely Jacques] Kahn was soon outdone by the gorgeous interiors, including elevators of inlaid wood veneer in geometrical patterns, and the spectacular dome of William Van Alen’s Chrysler building (1928-1930), whose sunburst effect continues to light up the New York skyline. It was followed by the more spare and severe Empire State Building (1930-1931) and the ensemble of Rockefeller Center, with its richly appointed Radio City Music Hall. But these are only the best known of several hundred Deco buildings constructed in New York alone between 1927 and 1932.

Photo of Rockefeller Center and Radio City by anto XIII.

From Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression by Morris Dickstein:

[Ely Jacques] Kahn was soon outdone by the gorgeous interiors, including elevators of inlaid wood veneer in geometrical patterns, and the spectacular dome of William Van Alen’s Chrysler building (1928-1930), whose sunburst effect continues to light up the New York skyline. It was followed by the more spare and severe Empire State Building (1930-1931) and the ensemble of Rockefeller Center, with its richly appointed Radio City Music Hall. But these are only the best known of several hundred Deco buildings constructed in New York alone between 1927 and 1932.

Photo of Rockefeller Center and Radio City by anto XIII.

Filed under dancing in the dark morris dickstein great depression 1930s ely jacques kahn william van alen chrysler building empire state building nyc new york city manhattan art deco architecture radio city music hall rockefeller center

2 notes &

From Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression by Morris Dickstein:

If the furnishings and interiors of the Paris expo affected American designers, the pavilions themselves, though soon to be torn down, had just as great an influence on American’s commercial architects. Ely Jacques Kahn, a pioneer Deco architect, was deeply impressed by what he encountered in Paris and soon began applying it to commissions in New York, including in 1927 his best-known building, at 2 Park Avenue, marked by richly colored terra-cotta panels on its exterior and by a lavishly decorated lobby that included a mosaic ceiling, marble walls, bronze and glass revolving doors, ornate lighting, and bronze elevator doors decorated with bas relief designs.

Illustration: Book cover featuring 2 Park Avenue.
For a short bio of Kahn, see Wikipedia.
Also, trivia point: “In what has become an iconic photograph, Kahn masqueraded as his own Squibb Building with other architects dressed as buildings for the Beaux Arts Ball of 1931.”

From Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression by Morris Dickstein:

If the furnishings and interiors of the Paris expo affected American designers, the pavilions themselves, though soon to be torn down, had just as great an influence on American’s commercial architects. Ely Jacques Kahn, a pioneer Deco architect, was deeply impressed by what he encountered in Paris and soon began applying it to commissions in New York, including in 1927 his best-known building, at 2 Park Avenue, marked by richly colored terra-cotta panels on its exterior and by a lavishly decorated lobby that included a mosaic ceiling, marble walls, bronze and glass revolving doors, ornate lighting, and bronze elevator doors decorated with bas relief designs.

Illustration: Book cover featuring 2 Park Avenue.

For a short bio of Kahn, see Wikipedia.

Also, trivia point: “In what has become an iconic photograph, Kahn masqueraded as his own Squibb Building with other architects dressed as buildings for the Beaux Arts Ball of 1931.”

Filed under morris dickstein dancing in the dark Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes art deco 1920s 1930s art history architecture ely jacques kahn 2 park avenue nyc new york city manhattan

22 notes &

From Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression* by Morris Dickstein:

If the big band craze that marked the swing era helped democratize jazz culture, the new weave of streamlined design, sometimes called Depression Modern, democratized consumption. As the ethos of the jazz scene helped bury America’s small-town puritanism, the modern yet decorative lines of the new design fashions made America less traditional and provincial. They infused an enormous range of products with the forward push of modernity and the futuristic lines of the machine.
One feature of swing was that it was not one kind of music but a “hot” approach that could give a different rhythm to almost anything, from classical to pop, from folk to Broadway. Deco was omnivorous too, eventually transforming everything from large buildings, garish theaters, and sleek trains to farm equipment and small table radios. There were Deco skyscrapers yet also Deco kitchens.
There was a modest vernacular Deco architecture, now belatedly rediscovered, in Miami Beach, or in apartment houses along the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. But there were also the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, and Radio City Music Hall, all conceived before the Crash and followed through, in the early years of the Depression, with blind tenacity by wealthy men in denial about the state of the economy, or determined to get it moving single-handedly.

I created the collage to go along with the quote.
* Book from which I’ll be drawing quotes now and again coming up, as there is a good deal of background on Deco in a couple of the chapters. I’ll continue to post all the photos of Sydney and then after that whatever else comes, but have started up reading this book and thought I’d could share as I go through it.

From Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression* by Morris Dickstein:

If the big band craze that marked the swing era helped democratize jazz culture, the new weave of streamlined design, sometimes called Depression Modern, democratized consumption. As the ethos of the jazz scene helped bury America’s small-town puritanism, the modern yet decorative lines of the new design fashions made America less traditional and provincial. They infused an enormous range of products with the forward push of modernity and the futuristic lines of the machine.

One feature of swing was that it was not one kind of music but a “hot” approach that could give a different rhythm to almost anything, from classical to pop, from folk to Broadway. Deco was omnivorous too, eventually transforming everything from large buildings, garish theaters, and sleek trains to farm equipment and small table radios. There were Deco skyscrapers yet also Deco kitchens.

There was a modest vernacular Deco architecture, now belatedly rediscovered, in Miami Beach, or in apartment houses along the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. But there were also the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, and Radio City Music Hall, all conceived before the Crash and followed through, in the early years of the Depression, with blind tenacity by wealthy men in denial about the state of the economy, or determined to get it moving single-handedly.

I created the collage to go along with the quote.

* Book from which I’ll be drawing quotes now and again coming up, as there is a good deal of background on Deco in a couple of the chapters. I’ll continue to post all the photos of Sydney and then after that whatever else comes, but have started up reading this book and thought I’d could share as I go through it.

Filed under 1930s architecture art deco art history dancing in the dark depression design great depression industrial design jazz modernism morris dickstein music history streamline streamline modern interior design

10 notes &

As we look back at it today, the Depression is a study in contrasts. At one extreme the “look” of the thirties is the flowing Art Deco lines of the new Chrysler Building, the Radio City Music Hall, the sets of Astaire-Rogers musicals like Top Hat, Swing Time, and Shall We Dance. At the other end is the work done by photographers like Lange, Walker Evans, Marion Post Wolcott, Russell Lee, Arthur Rothstein, and Ben Shahn for Roy Stryker’s photography unit of the Farm Security Administration, conceived as a way of bringing home the unthinkable pain of rural poverty to urban Americans. If the FSA photographs give us the naturalistic art of the Depression at its most humane, the Astaire musicals convey an elegant, sophisticated world in which the Depression is barely a distant rumor. Yet the two are equally characteristic of the period.

"Introduction to Depression Culture"
Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression
by Morris Dickstein

Note: I’m currently reading this and will be posting relevant quotes as I come across them. -Wendy

Filed under great depression art deco history photography 1930s farm security administration cultural history morris dickstein history