The 10 Most Impressive Art Deco Buildings in the World
It's no surprise that the art deco movement was born around the conclusion of World War I. It was a symbol of hope, a new beginning that parted ways with the past's opulent and overly ornate designs, and instead, put a stress on a more straightforward, functional, modern-day aesthetic. The trend emerged during the 1925 world's fair in Paris, where exhibitors from around the globe were asked to build their pavilions in a brand-new style that made no historical references to other movements. Gone were the lavish religious and floral motifs of the past centuries. They were replaced by stylized shapes and geometrical elements, as well as chevron, sunburst, and zigzag patterns that are now emblematic of the art deco style.
This new design aesthetic caught on primarily on this side of the Atlantic. As our country was going through an economic and real estate boom, this modern design trend was wholeheartedly adopted by architects, inspired by its understated sense of grandeur. Art deco buildings started popping up all over the nation — and the world — forever changing city skylines in every corner of the globe.
Here, we've rounded up the most outstanding art deco masterpieces to see in person at least once in your life.
Chrysler Building, New York City
An unmistakable symbol of art deco, this silhouette features seven terraced arches with vaulted windows, a spire, steel eagle heads, and geometric motifs. It was conceived in 1925 by Brooklyn-born architect William Van Alen, who built it in record time — contractors would erect on average four stories per week.
The Chrysler building was the tallest structure in the world upon completion, and today holds its own as the world's tallest brick building.
Majorelle Garden, Morocco
The famous 12-acre garden retreat in the heart of Marrakech is also home to one of the most stunning and eye-catching examples of art deco architecture. Painted in a striking cobalt blue hue, now known as "Majorelle blue," the art deco studio of ex-pat French artist Jacques Majorelle was built in 1931. It features extended arches, angular shapes, and a cantilevered roof over one of the terraces adding to the many geometric references in the two-story building conceived by architect Paul Sinoir.
Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles
While the Griffith Observatory is famous for its panoramic vistas over Los Angeles and live planetarium shows, this gorgeous public building is also known as one of the finest examples of art deco architecture.
Built in 1935 by the architect behind LA's City Hall, John C. Austin, and Frederick Ashley, the building has Greek, Roman, and Moorish influences and a beaux-arts layout. Its most notable art deco elements are the iron-grill windows, geometric shapes, and the elaborate metalwork on the front doors.
Palais de Chaillot, Paris
Facing the Eiffel Tower directly, the imposing Palais de Chaillot is one of the most visited landmarks in Paris. Its perfect location aside, this 1940s building is not only a gorgeous example of art deco architecture in the City of Light, but it also houses the largest museum dedicated to architecture and building design: Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine.
The two curved neoclassical wings of the Palais de Chaillot flank the main art deco structure that features elongated metal-sash windows, bas-reliefs, and gilded accents.
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Brussels
In general, art deco buildings are rarely religiously affiliated, but Brussels' the Basilica of the Sacred Heart is an outstanding example of the versatility of this design movement. It took several decades to complete (the first stone was laid in 1905, and the church opened its doors in 1971), but the result was well worth the wait.
Located on a hill in the western part of the Belgian capital, the basilica, the world's fifth-largest church, features a green copper dome flanked by two towers with tiered architecture, modern stained glass windows, a pediment, and arches. Inside, the church is entirely decorated in art deco style with plenty of marble and geometric motifs.
Empire State Building, New York City
The most prominent art deco structure in the world is Manhattan's Empire State Building, which took just over a year to complete. The 102-story skyscraper, conceived by architects Shreve, Lamb, and Harmon in 1932, has a steel frame covered in granite and limestone. Aluminum accents throughout add a gilded effect. The building's streamlined façade with recessed windows, setback shape, and, of course, its 200-foot crowning spire now make it the most photographed structure in the world.
Fair Park, Dallas
With an exceptional collection of art deco façades, Dallas' Fair Park is actually home to one of the nation's largest collection of art deco buildings. The park centers around The Esplanade, which features a 700-foot pool lined with art deco buildings, including the notable Hall of State. The Esplanade itself was designed by George Dahl and built specifically for the 1936 Texas centennial.
Eastern Columbia Building, Los Angeles
This jewel of art deco architecture is a true sight to behold. Designed by Claud Beelman in 1930, its picture-perfect façade is clad in striking teal terra cotta and gold leaf tiles — and topped with a clock tower. The windows arranged in sunken vertical patterns, along with the fluted piers, bronze spandrels, setback silhouette, and crown-like roofline are classic elements of art deco architecture.
Palais de la Mediterranée, Nice
The most emblematic building on the famous Promenade des Anglais, Nice's main boulevard overlooking the Mediterranean, is the awe-inspiring Palais de la Mediterranée. And while the French Riviera city has no shortage of art deco examples (about 600 of them, actually), the current Hyatt Regency hotel stands out with its grandeur. Modeled after Paris' Opéra Garnier, the white-washed façade of the building features a duo of stately pediments, wondrous bas-reliefs dedicated to the Greek god Poseidon, and imposing arcades and colonnades.
Paramount Theater, Oakland, CA
Timothy Pflueger, the prominent San Francisco Bay Area architect behind Fairmont San Francisco and the Pacific Exchange Building, designed one of America's most beautiful theaters in 1931. The theater's sign bisects the structure's 100-foot mosaic façade. The mosaic depicts a man and a woman manipulating puppets, bordered by rows of chevron-shaped maroon tiles — a signature art deco element.
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