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1925-1937: Art Deco

Jazzy Architecture For the Twentieth Century


With their sleek forms and zigzag designs, Art Deco buildings embraced the machine age.
The Art Deco Chrysler Building in New York City has jazzy automobile ornaments

The Art Deco Chrysler Building in New York City has jazzy automobile ornaments

Photo © Thomas Northcut / Getty Images
The Art Deco style evolved from many sources. The austere shapes of the Bauhaus School and streamlined styling of modern technology combined with patterns and icons taken from the Far East, classical Greece and Rome, Africa, Ancient Egypt, India, and Mayan and Aztec cultures.

Art Deco buildings have many of these features:

  • Cubic forms
  • Ziggurat shapes: Terraced pyramid with each story smaller than the one below it
  • Complex groupings of rectangles or trapezoids
  • Bands of color
  • Zigzag designs
  • Strong sense of line
  • Illusion of pillars
By the 1930s, Art Deco evolved into a more simplified style known as Streamlined Moderne, or Art Moderne. The emphasis was on sleek, curving forms and long horizontal lines. These buildings did not feature zigzag or colorful designs found on earlier Art Deco architecture.

Famous Art Deco Buildings

The Chrysler Building in New York City was built in 1930. For a few months, this Art Deco skyscraper was the tallest structure in the world. It was also one of the first buildings composed of stainless steel over a large exposed surface.

The architect, William Van Alen, drew inspiration from machine technology for the ornamental details on the Chrysler Building: There are eagle hood ornaments, hubcaps and abstract images of cars.

More Art Deco Buildings

Art Deco Architects

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