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crysler building

Art Deco

rt Deco design reached its peak in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s. The style is known for its expressive ornamentation, colorful materials, and bold silhouettes. Growing out of French modern movements such as Art Nouveau, Art Deco was a way to express an optimism about Machine Age technology and urban life. Combining modern industrial design and decorative motifs from sources such as ancient Egypt and Native American cultures, Art Deco had many manifestations and regional variations such as the colorful hotels of Miami Beach, Florida.

The skyscraper is the most well-known type of Art Deco architecture. The style was especially successful in New York City where the classic Art Deco landmarks—the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, and Rockefeller Center—are located. Characteristically the mass of the buildings are stepped back like a pyramid with a dramatic treatment of the upper facade with colorful metallic materials. Art Deco was primarily concerned with the decorative elements of a building. Beneath the exuberance of the facade, most Art Deco skyscrapers are traditional steel frame skyscraper construction.

At the time they were built, skyscrapers like the 77-story Chrysler Building were the tallest buildings in the world, but these records were soon surpassed. It is the decoration of the building, with its stainless steel arches and triangular windows, that give it its enduring quality. The Chrysler Building’s “hood ornament” gargoyles and hubcap ornamentation embody this celebration of Machine Age America.

Pictured: The Chrysler Building, New York, New York

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