Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Art Deco Design Movement

Cruising down Marine Drive in Mumbai, you would see a lot of Art Deco styled buildings much like the many picture you may see of buildings in Miami, typically hotels etc; all of them overlooking the sea, some well preserved, some rather seedy and ramshackle looking. Only Miami has more art deco buildings along the seafront than Mumbai. It was such a popular design mode of its time and such a distinctive and recognizable style that remnants of this style are visible at least in their residuary form all over the world:

• Furniture
• Appliances
• Buildings
• Automobiles
• Jewelry
• Fashion
• Painting, graphic arts and film as well.

This design style flourished in the 1920s and the 1930s, in the period between the two world wars. This decorative style is seen as an amalgam of many different styles and movements of the early 20th century, including Neoclassical, Constructivism, Cubism, Modernism, Bauhaus, Art Nouveau, and Futurism.

The theory is that the reason for the lavishness and opulence of the style was born as a reaction to the forced austerity and hardships that people had to endure during the First World War.

It would not be inaccurate to say that a lot of what we loosely term as Retro today is in fact Art Deco. There is an emphasis on man made material and the use of stainless steel and glass. This design style concerns itself with design using mathematical geometric shapes and takes its inspiration from the machine age.

An icon of this design movement is the town of Napier in New Zealand. An Art Deco weekend is held in Napier every year in February. In Napier, where you would find a variety of buildings in the styles of the 1930s - Stripped Classical, Spanish Mission, and above all Art Deco, the style of the 20th Century.

The town was rebuilt in this style after an earthquake destroyed it, because this construction style was perceived as a safe and earthquake friendly style with its low relief surface decoration.

Some of the most easily recognisable examples of the design movement are the Chrysler Centre in New York, or the City Hall of Buffalo. Havana (Cuba), Rio De Janeiro (Brazil) and many parts of the US still boast a lot of art deco buildings. From time to time there is resurgence in interest in the Art Deco design movement which once again brings into focus the buildings and styles that have gone down in the history of design.