All the glamour, hedonism and jazz of the 1920s is impossible to imagine without Art Deco. The style – short for Arts Decoratifs – sprung out of France and spread to design, architecture and the visual arts around the world in the 1920s and 30s. It was all about opulence, modernity and making things beautiful with luxury materials and excellent craftmanship. Art Deco’s symmetry, geometry and ornamental curves appeared from jewellery and furniture to skyscrapers and ocean liners.
The weather is warming up and our minds are turning to sunshine and travel, so we decided to check out one of the first truly international architectural styles in 7 great city destinations around the globe:
Travellers to Morocco often head straight for the markets of Marrakech or beaches of Tangiers, but French influences fused with traditional geometric designs mean architecture buffs should put at least a little time aside for the country’s biggest city, Casablanca.
Don’t let the city’s size put you off – join an architectural tour to discover hidden Deco gems such as the Cinema Rialto. Cosmopolitan Casa enjoys a buzzing arts scene, and several of the city’s old Deco villas such as the 1930s La Villa des Arts now house museums, galleries and exhibitions.
Havana appears on list after list of this year’s trendiest destinations, and why not – the time is definitely ripe to visit Cuba! Although often overlooked, Havana’s treasure trove of Art Deco architecture is considered some of the most significant in the world.
The Caribbean island’s take on Deco often featured local motifs such as pineapples and palm trees – ‘Tropical Deco’ can also be found in northern neighbour Miami. Many of the era’s buildings have been neglected over the years, but plenty of beautiful examples can still be found across the Cuban capital, especially on an Art Deco walking tour.
Don’t miss landmark buildings such as the 1930 Bacardi Building, the Teatro America and La Casa de la Amistad.
When the Great Miami Hurricane devastated the city in 1926, the South Beach neighbourhood was rebuilt in the chic new architectural style that had just come out of Paris – with a nautical twist! Today the Miami Beach Architectural District is home to over 800 dazzling examples of Art Deco.
The pastel colours, ocean-liner facades and sparkling terrazzo of ‘Maritime Deco’ make a stroll through this U.S historic district a feast for the eyes!
Covering around a square mile, Miami’s Art Deco District is perfect for exploring on foot. Highlights include the Park Central Hotel (pop in to see the lobby too!), the Colony Theatre, the Bass Museum and The Carlyle – star of the 1996 film The Birdcage.
You might not automatically associate India with Art Deco, but with over 200 buildings built in the style in the 1920s, 30s and 40s, Mumbai is second only to Miami in the size of its collection. ‘Bombay Deco’ was an easy fusion of European and Indian design and used a huge variety of materials in its expression.
The architectural style was especially popular in the city’s cinemas, and the Liberty, Eros and Regal cinemas are all well worth a visit for Art Deco fans as well as Bollywood buffs.
Napier, New Zealand
Like Miami, Napier in New Zealand was another victim of a natural disaster that reinvented itself in vogue. Also like Miami, it’s now one of the two best-preserved Art Deco towns in the world.
The self-proclaimed Art Deco Capital of the World rebuilt in the style after a huge earthquake flattened the town and most of nearby Hastings in 1931.
Any nostalgic who wants to feel like they’ve just walked straight into The Great Gatsby shouldn’t miss the Art Deco Festival held every February, featuring 1930s fashion, music, vintage cars and even a Gatsby picnic.
New York, USA
What list of Art Deco cities would be complete without a nod to New York City? Some of the most instantly recognisable buildings in the world – the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building – are also some of the most stunning examples of Art Deco architecture to be found anywhere.
No trip to NYC would be complete without taking in other iconic sites such as the Radio City Music Hall or the Rockefeller Center. But the style wasn’t just reserved for Manhattan – great examples can be uncovered across all five city boroughs.
Our tour of some of the planet’s best Art Deco cities ends in the East with Shanghai. Shanghai embraced all things Western from the 1920s to the 1940s and as a result it boasts one of the world’s richest collections of Art Deco architecture. ‘Chinese Deco’ can be found along the colonial stretch of buildings known as The Bund, highlights of which include the Bank of China and the iconic Fairmont Peace Hotel.
Even the city’s modern skyscrapers are not immune to its Art Deco heritage. The 420-metre-high Jin Mao Tower is a stunning example of old architectural style meeting new.
Picture sources: Featured image by Adam Campbell on Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0; Casablanca, Havana and Mumbai pictures by Sandra Cohen-Rose and Colin Rose on Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0; Miami picture 1 by Mark Cameron on Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0; Miami picture 2 by Class V on Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0; Napier picture 1 courtesy of masonic.co.nz; Napier picture 2 by Russel James Smith on Flickr //CC BY 2.0; Napier picture 3 by russellstreet on Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0; New York skyline by Sam Valadi on Flickr // CC BY 2.0; New York chandelier by Francisco Anzola on Flickr // CC BY 2.0; Shanghai picture from pinterest.com