Friday, January 17, 2014
Geometric, dramatic and stark, Art Deco architecture remained avant-garde long after it peaked in the 1920s. Its hard edges, contrasting shapes and clean lines all demonstrate a modern boldness that seemed futuristic in its day. Yet even today, Art Deco buildings of varying styles and influences are still standing and garnering attention, all around the world.
Indulge in 1920s architectural splendour with our list of some intriguing Art Deco hotspots all around the world, and their best examples of this avant-garde style.
Napier, New Zealand
Despite Art Deco’s preponderance in Europe, the world capital of Art Deco is far from the classical continental cities – and far, indeed, from the northern hemisphere. Instead, this title is proudly held by the otherwise unsuspecting New Zealand town of Napier, located on the beautiful Hawke’s Bay coast in North Island. After a terrible earthquake hit the region in 1931, destroying almost all its Victorian architecture, the decision was made to rebuild in the style of the era: Art Deco.
Our favourite pick of the 140-plus Art Deco buildings packed into this small city would have to be the glamorous County Hotel, with its golden and cream exterior, stained-glass windows, Thirties-style furnishings and decorative columns. To see for yourself, head to Napier in February when it dons vintage and recreates all things 1930s for the annual Art Deco Weekend.
Another unsuspecting southern hotspot of Art Deco splendour is Launceston, the second largest city of Australia’s smallest state, Tasmania. An architectural gem all around, this city retains the country’s highest collection of 19th-century buildings, showcasing Georgian, Victorian, Art Nouveau, Victorian-Italianate, and so much more – Art Deco included.
Duncan House, built in 1934, is regarded as Launceston’s first commercial example of Art Deco, and retains a slight Gothic influence encased in Art Deco flair, with its brick façade, vintage rendered features and iconic roof spikes.
London, United Kingdom
Ever the architectural showcase and long a city of global influence, the fact that London boasts its fair share of Art Deco architecture is perhaps not surprising. A vast collection of its theatres, hotels, factories, railway stations, and even palace extensions and power stations alike bear Art Deco features. Perhaps more than any other city, London highlights the versatility of the Art Deco style.
One of the most iconic London buildings of Art Deco bearings is the ever-popular Apollo Victoria Theatre in West End. Built in 1929, this concrete structure boasts a dramatic yet simple exterior. The entrance is flanked by two black marble columns and chrome trimmings. Inside, the original Art Deco interior remains, with bold columns, sculptured ceiling decorations and atmospheric concealed lighting.
Saint Petersburg, Russia
Russia’s cultural capital, Saint Petersburg, contains an enviable collection of architecture, Art Deco included. The prime showpiece of Art Deco in Saint Petersburg, if not northern Europe in general, is indisputably the Hotel Astoria.
Completed in 1912, the luxurious hotel’s mixture of Art Nouveau and neo-classical influences positions it as an intriguing early twentieth-century example of Art Deco. Hotel Astoria’s bold lines, classical columns, red awnings and prominent upper-storey balcony remind us of the aristocratic clientele of its 1910s heyday, remaining nostalgic and avant-garde at once.
Sarah Trevor is a freelance writer and history lover from Sydney whose passion for cities and architecture is assisted by TGC.