Art Deco / Art Moderne

Herman Ridder Jr. High (PS 98)<br/>Claremont Village, The Bronx
8/20/2005 01:35 PM
Herman Ridder Jr. High (PS 98)
Claremont Village, The Bronx

Art Deco was a design style popular from approximately 1925 through 1939. The name is derived from the style's origins at the the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Art) in Paris, although the terms "Art Deco" (and it's stylistic heir, Art Moderne) were not commonly used until the 1968 publication of Bevis Hillier's art history book Art Deco of the 20s and 30s.

In the 1920s, New York City was both the cultural center of America and a city undergoing a construction boom. As such, New York City contains numerous buildings that are excellent representatives of Art Deco architectural design. Art Deco style was commonly applied to commercial and public buildings rather than private residences, giving NYC an additional advantage since the density of Manhattan favored tall, commercial buildings. Art Deco buildings have worn well both for their sturdy design and their nostalgic appeal.

Art Deco was an opulent and purely decorative style that projected elegant modernism. Much of Art Deco style is based on clean geographic shapes with sunbursts, chevrons, zigzags, and octagons predominating. The increasing dominance of technology is reflected in images celebrating machines like railroads and airplanes. Sweeping curves in buildings reflected new trends in aerodynamic streamline vehicle design. Objects from the natural world (especially eagles) were presented in geometrically stylized designs, most prominently on government buildings.

Geometric Shapes

Sunburst - Chrysler Building
4/24/2008 09:04 AM
Sunburst - Chrysler Building
Chevrons and inlaid wood - Hunter College elevator
8/19/2008 05:15 PM
Chevrons and inlaid wood - Hunter College elevator
Octagon window - Worth Memorial, B'way at 25th St
9/7/2007 04:21 PM
Octagon window - Worth Memorial, B'way at 25th St
Concentric rectangles - Lobby, Rockefeller Center
1/6/2004 01:49 PM
Concentric rectangles - Lobby, Rockefeller Center
Zig-zags - 184th St IND Subway Station Entrance
1/30/2008 04:45 PM
Zig-zags - 184th St IND Subway Station Entrance
Lozenges (non-square diamonds) - 160 West Broadway
4/15/2008 06:48 PM
Lozenges (non-square diamonds) - 160 West Broadway
Cylindrical framed radio towers - 32 Sixth Avenue
4/15/2008 06:50 PM
Cylindrical framed radio towers - 32 Sixth Avenue
32 Sixth Avenue
4/15/2008 06:53 PM
32 Sixth Avenue
55 Central Park West
3/23/2008 08:49 AM
55 Central Park West
3 East 66th St
3/28/2008 01:58 PM
3 East 66th St
530 Amsterdam Ave
4/4/2008 11:35 AM
530 Amsterdam Ave

Tiered Setbacks

Following the opening of the blocky and (for the time) astronomically tall 41-story Equitable Building in 1915, New York City's zoning laws were changed in 1916, requiring setbacks on the upper floors of tall buildings to provide more light at street level and reduce shadows. This seemingly minor change would have a dramatic architectural impact on the appearance of the NYC skyline up through the middle of the century. Setbacks also fit seamlessly into the vertical orientation of Art Deco and the "Wedding Cake" style would become a defining characteristic of Art Deco architecture. Completing the phallic symbolism, many Art Deco buildings have rounded cupolas.

Williamsburgh Savings Bank, Brooklyn
11/19/2008 01:47 PM
Williamsburgh Savings Bank, Brooklyn
Rockefeller Center
9/28/2006 02:04 PM
Rockefeller Center
Empire State Building (1931)
3/14/2007 02:47 PM
Empire State Building (1931)
McGraw Hill Building (1931)
5/1/2007 06:34 PM
McGraw Hill Building (1931)
One Fifth Avenue
6/8/2007 06:49 PM
One Fifth Avenue
500 Fifth Avenue
8/14/2007 01:41 PM
500 Fifth Avenue
20 Exchange Place
9/28/2007 03:43 PM
20 Exchange Place
Criminal Courts Building
3/25/2008 01:24 PM
Criminal Courts Building
Criminal Courts Building
3/25/2008 01:30 PM
Criminal Courts Building
Squibb Building, 745 Fifth Ave. @ 58th Street
3/29/2008 03:13 PM
Squibb Building, 745 Fifth Ave. @ 58th Street
275 Madison Avenue
9/1/2008 03:07 PM
275 Madison Avenue
1501 Broadway
8/3/2008 09:07 AM
1501 Broadway
1501 Broadway
8/3/2008 08:56 AM
1501 Broadway
1501 Broadway
12/21/2008 09:23 AM
1501 Broadway
Garment District
7/17/2006 07:22 PM
Garment District

This stairstep design was also incorporated into other vertically-oriented structures.

Triboro Bridge suspension span tower
7/18/2008 06:09 PM
Triboro Bridge suspension span tower
Vestigial lamp post on the Miller Highway
10/10/2008 11:40 AM
Vestigial lamp post on the Miller Highway

Sans Serif Fonts

Fonts used for lettering on Art Deco buildings are distinctive and then, as now, had a clean, modern and sophisticated quality. They were almost universally sans serif and often entirely capitalized. Typical representatives include Eric Gill's Gill Sans and Perpetua fonts and Paul Renner's Futura fonts (frequently featured on posters of the time). On occasion, more radical fonts were created based on geometric shapes (notably circles) and were often multi-lineal.

Woodcrest Apartments - Midwood, Brooklyn
7/10/2008 05:51 PM
Woodcrest Apartments - Midwood, Brooklyn
Woodcrest Apartments
7/10/2008 05:52 PM
Woodcrest Apartments
Morgan General Mail Facility
5/2/2008 03:18 PM
Morgan General Mail Facility
Stanton Substation
9/26/2006 06:57 PM
Stanton Substation
600 W. 168th St
9/5/2008 03:49 PM
600 W. 168th St
Hunter College
8/14/2008 02:14 PM
Hunter College
Hunter College
12/23/2008 12:46 PM
Hunter College

Stylized Figures

Geometrically stylized figures of humans and animals frequently adorn Art Deco buildings, often in bas relief.

Eagles - 369th Infantry Armory
3/12/2005 03:29 PM
Eagles - 369th Infantry Armory
Eagles - Chrysler Building
4/24/2008 09:06 AM
Eagles - Chrysler Building
Eagle gargoyles - Chrysler Building
4/24/2008 09:06 AM
Eagle gargoyles - Chrysler Building
Stainless steel bas relief - Rockefeller Center
10/3/2007 02:37 PM
Stainless steel bas relief - Rockefeller Center
Brooklyn Public Library
11/9/2007 04:50 PM
Brooklyn Public Library
Brooklyn Public Library
11/9/2007 04:51 PM
Brooklyn Public Library
Trinity Baptist Church
3/13/2008 03:18 PM
Trinity Baptist Church
Williamsburg Savings Bank
11/9/2007 04:14 PM
Williamsburg Savings Bank
500 Fifth Avenue
11/21/2008 04:10 PM
500 Fifth Avenue
[Ornate entryway, Downtown]
9/14/2007 03:49 PM
[Ornate entryway, Downtown]
185 Montague Street
9/3/2008 06:49 PM
185 Montague Street
185 Montague Street
9/3/2008 06:49 PM
185 Montague Street
Abstract floral motif - 275 Madison Avenue
9/1/2008 03:07 PM
Abstract floral motif - 275 Madison Avenue
275 Madison Avenue
9/1/2008 03:07 PM
275 Madison Avenue
Eagles - First National City Bank, Canal at Broadway (1927)
9/6/2006 04:30 PM
Eagles - First National City Bank, Canal at Broadway (1927)
Eagles - First National City Bank, Canal at Broadway (1927)
9/6/2006 04:31 PM
Eagles - First National City Bank, Canal at Broadway (1927)
675 4th Ave, Brooklyn<br>Stylized waves on the former Seafarers Int'l Union Building
12/18/2008 03:40 PM
675 4th Ave, Brooklyn<br>Stylized waves on the former Seafarers Int'l Union Building
500 Fifth Avenue
8/5/2010 01:02 PM
500 Fifth Avenue
500 Fifth Avenue
8/5/2010 01:04 PM
500 Fifth Avenue

Geometric Lighting Fixtures

In keeping with the geometric emphasis of Art Deco, many structures feature distinctive cylindrical luminaires and geometrically shaped sconces.

Luminaire - Lincoln Tunnel
2/14/2008 01:18 PM
Luminaire - Lincoln Tunnel
Luminaire - Lincoln Tunnel
2/14/2008 01:19 PM
Luminaire - Lincoln Tunnel
Luminaire - Lincoln Tunnel
2/14/2008 01:19 PM
Luminaire - Lincoln Tunnel
Luminaire - Lefkowitz State Office Building
3/25/2008 01:29 PM
Luminaire - Lefkowitz State Office Building
Octagonal luminaire - West 60th St Comfort Station - Central Park
11/22/2008 08:43 AM
Octagonal luminaire - West 60th St Comfort Station - Central Park
Octagonal luminaire - West 60th St Comfort Station - Central Park
12/20/2008 08:44 AM
Octagonal luminaire - West 60th St Comfort Station - Central Park
Chevron sconces - 275 Madison Avenue
9/1/2008 03:09 PM
Chevron sconces - 275 Madison Avenue

Dramatically Colored Materials

Art Deco buildings frequently incorporate dramatically colored and polychromatic materials.

1005 Jerome Avenue, The Bronx
11/2/2007 05:15 PM
1005 Jerome Avenue, The Bronx
1005 Jerome Avenue, The Bronx
11/2/2007 05:16 PM
1005 Jerome Avenue, The Bronx
1005 Jerome Avenue, The Bronx
11/2/2007 05:16 PM
1005 Jerome Avenue, The Bronx
1005 Jerome Avenue, The Bronx
11/2/2007 05:16 PM
1005 Jerome Avenue, The Bronx
McGraw Hill Building (1931)
12/8/2006 11:51 AM
McGraw Hill Building (1931)
McGraw Hill Building (1931)
10/23/2007 02:56 PM
McGraw Hill Building (1931)
Polychromatic facade - Trinity Baptist Church, 250 East 61st
3/13/2008 03:18 PM
Polychromatic facade - Trinity Baptist Church, 250 East 61st
Black granite - Trinity Baptist Church
3/13/2008 03:19 PM
Black granite - Trinity Baptist Church
ITT Headquarters, Downtown
9/14/2007 03:42 PM
ITT Headquarters, Downtown
Horn and Hardart Automat (1930)
3/9/2007 05:30 PM
Horn and Hardart Automat (1930)
Horn and Hardart Automat (1930)
4/20/2008 01:32 PM
Horn and Hardart Automat (1930)
2315 Broadway
4/20/2008 01:53 PM
2315 Broadway
2315 Broadway
4/20/2008 01:55 PM
2315 Broadway
Mosaic - 30 Rockefeller Plaza
11/23/2008 10:39 PM
Mosaic - 30 Rockefeller Plaza
Mosaic - 30 Rockefeller Plaza
11/23/2008 10:40 PM
Mosaic - 30 Rockefeller Plaza
Mosaic - 30 Rockefeller Plaza
11/23/2008 10:41 PM
Mosaic - 30 Rockefeller Plaza
210 East 68th Street
3/25/2009 01:58 PM
210 East 68th Street
210 East 68th Street
3/25/2009 01:58 PM
210 East 68th Street
210 East 68th Street
3/25/2009 01:58 PM
210 East 68th Street
210 East 68th Street
3/25/2009 01:59 PM
210 East 68th Street
210 East 68th Street
3/25/2009 01:59 PM
210 East 68th Street
210 East 68th Street
3/25/2009 02:00 PM
210 East 68th Street
West Side YMCA - 64th Street side
5/14/2009 01:35 PM
West Side YMCA - 64th Street side
320 Central Park West
7/30/2009 10:47 AM
320 Central Park West

The 23-story American Radiator Building at 40 West 40th Street, designed by Raymond Hood and Andre Fouilhoux and built in 1924, is a transitional form. The general feeling of the building (especially the marble entryway and arch-ceilinged basemant) is neo-Gothic, but the striking black brick and gold ornamentation clearly reflects the Art Deco sensibility that would rise to general prominance shortly after the building opened.

American Radiator Building (1924)
12/3/2008 03:33 PM
American Radiator Building (1924)
American Radiator Building (1924)
12/3/2008 03:33 PM
American Radiator Building (1924)
American Radiator Building (1924)
1/11/2009 03:42 PM
American Radiator Building (1924)
American Radiator Building (1924)
6/28/2009 09:03 AM
American Radiator Building (1924)

Streamlining

Marquee - Radio City Music Hall
9/7/2007 05:20 PM
Marquee - Radio City Music Hall
1001 Jerome Avenue, The Bronx
11/2/2007 05:14 PM
1001 Jerome Avenue, The Bronx
1001 Jerome Avenue, The Bronx
11/2/2007 05:14 PM
1001 Jerome Avenue, The Bronx
New Amsterdam Theatre Marquee
8/28/2007 06:47 PM
New Amsterdam Theatre Marquee
Majestic Apartments (1931)
9/23/2007 08:29 AM
Majestic Apartments (1931)
Majestic Apartments
3/9/2008 07:45 AM
Majestic Apartments
Ridgewood Savings Bank, 107-55 Queens Blvd, Forest Hills
6/19/2009 08:50 PM
Ridgewood Savings Bank, 107-55 Queens Blvd, Forest Hills
Ridgewood Savings Bank, 107-55 Queens Blvd, Forest Hills
6/19/2009 08:50 PM
Ridgewood Savings Bank, 107-55 Queens Blvd, Forest Hills

Some auditoria from the time make a distinctive application of streamlining with curved staircases extending down from the balcony onto the stage.

Hunter College auditorium
10/15/2008 01:15 PM
Hunter College auditorium
Hunter College auditorium
8/19/2008 07:15 PM
Hunter College auditorium
Hunter College auditorium
8/19/2008 07:15 PM
Hunter College auditorium

Ubiquity

Even purely functional and mundane structures from the time incorporated Art Deco or Streamline Moderne elements.

NY Central RR Substation, Dyckman Street
3/13/2005 04:16 PM
NY Central RR Substation, Dyckman Street
NY Central RR Substation
3/13/2005 04:17 PM
NY Central RR Substation
Engine Company 24 - Midtown (1937)
2/14/2008 01:12 PM
Engine Company 24 - Midtown (1937)
Engine Company 24 - Midtown
2/14/2008 01:12 PM
Engine Company 24 - Midtown
NY Grit Chamber
12/5/2006 03:41 PM
NY Grit Chamber
211 West 61st St (1928)
8/30/2006 02:46 PM
211 West 61st St (1928)
211 West 61st St (1928)
8/30/2006 02:47 PM
211 West 61st St (1928)
211 West 61st St (1928)
8/30/2006 02:47 PM
211 West 61st St (1928)
1626 Cody, Glendale, Queens
7/16/2008 07:03 PM
1626 Cody, Glendale, Queens
1626 Cody, Glendale, Queens
7/16/2008 07:03 PM
1626 Cody, Glendale, Queens
Central IND Substation, 136 W 53rd St (1932)
1/9/2009 04:04 PM
Central IND Substation, 136 W 53rd St (1932)
Central IND Substation, 136 W 53rd St (1932)
1/9/2009 04:05 PM
Central IND Substation, 136 W 53rd St (1932)
Central IND Substation, 136 W 53rd St (1932)
1/9/2009 04:05 PM
Central IND Substation, 136 W 53rd St (1932)

The 369th Infantry Armory in Harlem was the last major armory build in the city. Its construction between 1921 and 1933 spanned the advent of Art Deco and, as such, it represents a curious mix of medival and Art Deco elements:

369th Infantry Armory, Harlem (1921-1933)
3/12/2005 03:26 PM
369th Infantry Armory, Harlem (1921-1933)
369th Infantry Armory, Harlem
3/12/2005 03:27 PM
369th Infantry Armory, Harlem
369th Infantry Armory, Harlem
3/12/2005 03:27 PM
369th Infantry Armory, Harlem
369th Infantry Armory, Harlem
3/12/2005 03:27 PM
369th Infantry Armory, Harlem

Art Moderne

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Art Moderne followed Art Deco and the two styles have similarities. Although they share the same penchant for streamlining, Art Moderne emphasizes horizontal lines while Art Deco emphasizes vertical lines. Art Moderne also tends to have a simpler, more functional quality than Art Deco. Rounded corners and glass block walls are givaways that you are looking at Moderne rather than Deco.

Fifth Avenue, Sunset Park, Brooklyn
10/22/2008 01:56 PM
Fifth Avenue, Sunset Park, Brooklyn
Fifth Avenue, Sunset Park, Brooklyn
10/22/2008 01:57 PM
Fifth Avenue, Sunset Park, Brooklyn
Williamsbridge Park - The Bronx (1937)
12/12/2008 03:41 PM
Williamsbridge Park - The Bronx (1937)
Williamsbridge Park - The Bronx (1937)
12/12/2008 03:41 PM
Williamsbridge Park - The Bronx (1937)
Van Cortland Park, The Bronx
8/24/2005 04:18 PM
Van Cortland Park, The Bronx
Evergreen Park, Queens
7/16/2008 07:15 PM
Evergreen Park, Queens
Amsterdam Depot - 129th St @ Amsterdam Ave
6/6/2008 05:52 PM
Amsterdam Depot - 129th St @ Amsterdam Ave
411 West End Avenue (1936)
12/17/2008 03:51 PM
411 West End Avenue (1936)
Godmothers League Building - 255 West 71st St (1948-1950)
12/18/2008 11:06 AM
Godmothers League Building - 255 West 71st St (1948-1950)
Godmothers League Building - 255 West 71st St (1948-1950)
12/18/2008 11:06 AM
Godmothers League Building - 255 West 71st St (1948-1950)
Godmothers League Building - 255 West 71st St (1948-1950)
12/18/2008 11:06 AM
Godmothers League Building - 255 West 71st St (1948-1950)

A pair of towers on Central Park West make a nice side-by-side distinction between Art Deco and Art Moderne. Both were designed by Emery Roth (1871-1948), who also designed the twin-towered San Remo to the south and was responsible for a large number of luxury residences in Manhattan during his life.

The Art Deco El Dorado at 300 Central Park West embodies the soaring vertical aesthetic of Art Deco, with it's setback twin towers and elegant geometric detailing. By contrast, the Art Moderne 295 Central Park West is comparatively plain, reflecting a more austere depression era aesthetic. The blocky tower has a more horizontal orientation, with less dramatic setbacks, rounded corners, and very limited ornamentation. Both contrast even more dramatically Further contrast can be drawn with The St. Urban (285 Central Park West), a Beaux Arts building just to the south which was designed by Robert T. Lyons and completed in 1906.

295 Central Park West / 300 Central Park West
7/30/2009 10:50 AM
295 Central Park West / 300 Central Park West
The El Dorado, 300 Central Park West
7/30/2009 10:48 AM
The El Dorado, 300 Central Park West
295 Central Park West
7/30/2009 10:51 AM
295 Central Park West
300 Central Park West
7/30/2009 10:51 AM
300 Central Park West
285 Central Park West / 295 Central Park West
7/30/2009 10:52 AM
285 Central Park West / 295 Central Park West
300 Central Park West
7/30/2009 10:53 AM
300 Central Park West
295 Central Park West
7/30/2009 10:54 AM
295 Central Park West

Unlike Art Deco, which was most popular in cities that suited its vertical orientation, Art Modern was commonly expressed in the hinterlands, where its horizontal orientation was suited to low-rise buildings. This well preserved gas-station-turned-used-car-lot in Hampton, AR has all the distinctive Art Moderne characteristics: rounded corners, horizontal bands, glass brick, casement windows and even a little bit of glazed black tile trim around the front stoop.

Quality Auto Sales - Hampton, AR
11/28/2008 08:46 AM
Quality Auto Sales - Hampton, AR
Quality Auto Sales - Hampton, AR
11/28/2008 08:46 AM
Quality Auto Sales - Hampton, AR

Faux Deco

Never quite as good as the original.

170 West 72nd St
8/10/2008 08:23 AM
170 West 72nd St
Brooklyn Diner - 155 West 43rd St
11/22/2008 09:01 AM
Brooklyn Diner - 155 West 43rd St
AMC Loews Lincoln Square - 1998 B'way
11/23/2008 08:32 AM
AMC Loews Lincoln Square - 1998 B'way
Broadway Theatre - 1681 B'way
11/23/2008 08:53 AM
Broadway Theatre - 1681 B'way
West 57th St
12/17/2008 06:07 PM
West 57th St