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Art Deco Basics

May 15

Written by:
5/15/2016 9:19 AM  RssIcon


It was a new festive modern style that featured a variety of ornamentation and stylish motifs.   Art Deco was less austintacious and simpler than Art Nouveau , making it easier for mass production and construction. It was still an  elegant design style dominant in decorative art.  Where Art Nouveau focused on curves, Art Deco was centered on angles and geometric patterns.  It is important to remember that Art Deco is more than an Architectural style.  It is also an art style that includes furniture, sculpture, clothing, jewelry and graphic designs.

The Art Deco  style came from the 1925 Paris Exposition (Internationale des Arts Decoratifs Industriels et Modernes), that was held to celebrated modern world living.  Even though the style was being defined the actual term "Art Deco" wasn’t coined until the late 1960s by art historian Bevis Hilliard. Before then the style was known as Zig-zag modern, Jazz modern or Art Moderne.  By 1940 the style had become unpopular and was being replaced by more progressive designs.  Art Deco is a culmination of exotic cultures, geometric shapes and the modern attitudes of a rapidly changing world of the 1930’s and  1940’s that resulted in a timeless style that still influences today's designs.

Art Deco Styles


The Art Deco style lacks a defining doctrine or manifesto, and thus fragmented into several different factions with unique attributes and features.  It is an international architecture movement with significant influences from  France, Cuba, Russia , Italy  and the United States.  In this country there were three major styles of  Art Deco.  The earliest of the three was The Zigzag Styles that is vertically oriented and focused on angles and geometric designs.  During the depression and through World War II a shortage of materials and money resulted in the “Depression” or PWA (Publics Works Authority) version of Art Deco.  Later the Streamline style became popular that was horizontally oriented and focused more on sleek curved structures.


Tower on the Farmers Market Building 925 S. Elgin Avenue , Tulsa OK


Zigzag Style -Fire Alarm Building, Tulsa Oklahoma
Zigzag Style

The Zigzag style was most popular through the 1920’s and represents typically vertical building with geometric diagonal designs.  The designs are sharp, angular and  precise.  Zigzag Art Deco designs are based on mathematical geometric shapes.   These shapes are sometimes influenced by the art of Ancient Egypt and Aztec Mexico.  
The Zigzag style often decorates a building's façade with geometric ornamentation. It was an urban style that flourished in large cities like New York, Los Angeles and Miami. The Zigzag motif was primarily used for large  commercial buildings like hotels, movie theaters, restaurants, department stores and skyscrapers.  
A luxurious assortment of materials, like exotic wood veneers, marble, metals and  painted terra-cotta were commonly used. These expensive and exotic materials were skillfully applied by artisans of the period. 

 PWA Style
The depression, highlighted by the stock market crash of 1931 launched the  PWA (Public Works Authority) style which is also referred to as the Art Deco “Depression “  style.  It has two separate manifestations in Tulsa.  Many building were very scare of funds and were produced with little artistic enhancements.  Others, notably Will Rogers High School  and Daniel Webster High School were part of the Public Works Program where the government purposely financed the work of artisans, investing heavily in stone plaster and other construction art forms.

PWA Style - Fairgrounds Pavilion , Tulsa Oklahoma 

Streamline Style - Tulsa Monument Co. Building , Tulsa Oklahoma 
 Streamline Style
The “Streamline” style was later phase of Art Deco that was heavily influenced by the shapes of modern transportation.  Unlike previous versions of Art Deco the streamline style was based on expectation and the future.  It reflected the technological age that initiated air travel, the telephone, the radio, and talking pictures.It’s designs included aviation, electric lighting, the radio, the ocean liners  It also shows influences of jazz and the Hollywood film industry.  Unlike the “Zigzag” style, the “Streamline” Art Deco was horizontal and featured Aerodynamic curves and flowing forms.  New materials, like glass blocks, chrome,  stainless steel, and neon signage are common to this style.

Art Moderne Style
The Moderne style, also referred to as “Art Moderne” came after the “Streamline” style and is characterized by asymmetrical cubic designs which often includes rounded corners.  The Modern style is simple and unadorned with prolific art as was prior Art Deco styles.  It is horizontally oriented with simple geometric shapes and little ornamentation.  It typically employs flat roofs.  In Tulsa many of fire stations employ this style.designs.  This style utilizes features from the all the Art Deco styles and sometimes mixes features different Art Deco styles.  This gives new buildings nostalgic appearance. 
Retro Deco Style
Many architects and designers are creating new building utilizing the Art Deco principles.  These building are call retro deco, since they are retro fitting the old design principles into today’s new building  Some locations call the style "Echo Deco".  The "Retro Deco" style can incorporate zigzag, art moderne, streamline or a combination of features from multiple art deco styles.

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