I don’t know all that much about the science of architecture,
But I do know what I like.
One of the things I admire about my great grandfather’s generation was their buildings —
— the Art Deco style in particular.
The style came into being in the very early part of the twentieth century,
growing out of the Art Nouveau movement….
But, while Art Nouveau was expressed with a humanistic, organic perspective,
Art Deco focused on a more technological and geometric viewpoint.
A city not far from me, Asheville, North Carolina,
has some beautiful examples,
like this one:
the City Hall.
Inside and out, this building bristles with Deco vitality and verve,
…….as does the city itself.
It really is a groovy city to visit.
Friendly, clean, a little weird, with plenty of Art Deco to go around.
If it was near the beach, I think I’d move there.
And being originally from South Florida,
I was certainly affected by the plethora of old Art Deco hotels in nearby Miami Beach…
Most of them have been painstakingly restored to their original condition,
….. and to see them today can be quite a culture shock.
The first time I saw them as a child in the 1960’s, it felt like another world, even then.
Part of the fun about these places is that you can seemingly immerse yourself in a time long ago, when design wasn’t all about just money and functionality —
These buildings made a statement
about hopes for the future,
and most especially, about technology.
And of course, when they were built,
——they were about fresh, ground-breaking ideas.
A new approach to things, as it were.
…. to visit those places is to see the Deco movement in full stride.
Many people would say the greatest surviving examples of the Art Deco movement are in New York —
…….. for example, the Chrysler Building, or the Empire State.
I don’t know….
I’ve seen some really gorgeous examples in some unexpected places.
Detroit– one of my least favorite cities to visit— has so many beautiful old Deco buildings like the Fisher, or the Guardian Building, it’s incredible.
The Guardian, for one, has been restored, but many of the old masterpieces are falling to ruin.
It breaks my heart what has been allowed to happen to that city.
As the architectural marvels from the era of the 1920’s disintegrate, so does an important part of our history.
The Art Deco style wasn’t just used for high dollar, high exposure skyscrapers, either—
My favorites are the ‘every day’ buildings —
——– the houses, the theatres, the depots.
I was driving through Arkansas recently,
….and came across a beautiful old example of an Art Deco Bus Station,
in a small city named Blytheville.
It still serves the same function, and has been maintained pretty well,
…… considering the lack of demand for long distance bus travel these days.
Check out the shape of the structure, the curved panes of glass, the signage, the neon around the front fascia..
How could someone not stop and gape at such a wonderful piece of history?
Well, the locals thought I was nuts.
Closer to home,
I went looking for old deco-style movie houses one weekend in Charleston, South Carolina,
….. and I didn’t have to search for very long before I came across this one—
It’s the old Riviera Theatre, built in 1939…
………… and restored in the 1990’s as a conference center.
Charleston has a wonderful variety of old buildings in many styles, and the historically significant S.H. Kress Building, on King Street, is another fine example of the Deco movement in architecture.
My friend Katie sent me a picture of the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, California…
It’s a classic of Deco architecture.
And talking about movie houses,
………one of my all time favorites is in a little Midwest town called Normal, Illinois.
And it’s anything,