Further to my introductory post about why I’m concentrating on Scottish Art Deco I think I need to explain to you what I understand Art Deco to mean. Whilst I’m talking about it as an architectural term it really is a general term for interiors as well and covers the inter war period time frame, so the 1920’s and 1930’s, between WWI and WWII.
The focus of the blog will be on Art Deco buildings in Scotland but that doesn’t mean I won’t cover some interiors on occasions as well as the architects themselves, because I think the stories are looking interesting as I am reading through!
In the meantime though, what does Art Deco mean?
What do you think it means? What images come to mind for you?
Is it the white square buildings?
Is it the glamour or the colour?
Whenever I see Art Deco I always also expect to see Hercule Poirot. Which surely means that there is a body somewhere?
Of interest in my reading was that the term Art Deco was not adopted until the 1960’s. In 1966 there was a anniversary exhibition in Paris to celebrate the “Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes” which had been held in Paris in 1925. That exhibition had covered most of the moments across Europe at the time, Bauhaus, Stijl, Expirit Nouveau etc. The term Art Deco became short hand to instantly describe all of that which was endorsed in a book published after the exhibition called Art Deco of the 20s and 30’s by Hulier.
The term used contemporary to the buildings appears to be “jazz modern”. Which is good too isn’t it?
The countries that seem to be the source of the architectural styles are Holland and Germany and of course America. Many of the UK architects spent time in America and brought because stunning ideas. Scottish Architect Sir John Burnet trained in America and sent his young staff members there including Thomas Tait, who is an important architect in terms of Scottish Art Deco.
As well as being inspired by the architecture of the country there appears to have been a practical need for the changes in style. I was interested to find that the steel windows that are an intergral part of the style, the crittal windows, were marketed well to become popular but actually were needed because of the shortage of wood after WWI.
The immaculate smooth exterior look I associate with Art Deco came about with the progress made in understanding how to use concrete and steel.
I was also really excited to be reminded that King Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter. This massively influenced the style.
The characteristics of Art Deco certainly are about geometry and symmetry with the square, rectangle and curves prominently appearing. The interwar years were a period of prosperity and obviously it was the jazz age. These factors definitely contribute to the glamour and materials used. We see advances in technology that allow improvements and modern twists not seen before. Plastic was new for example.
What words do you associate with Art Deco? What features do you think are utterly mandatory? Why do you know a building is Art Deco? There are definite characteristics and I think in the main an Art Deco building is quite clearly an Art Deco building. For me it’s likely about the white smooth external shell. The square box with steel rectangular windows, the flat roof.
But what else?
Let’s tour Scotland and find the Art Deco buildings and note their characteristics and see if we can understand what the influences were. Let’s meet the architects and find out what inspired them. Given that we are now in the 20’s lets look back at the 20’s.
Leave me a comment with your key art deco terms. And let me know if you have any buildings that I must visit as I tour Scotland.