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Introduction

Wan Chai Market is popularly but inaccurately referred to as a building of the “Bauhaus” architectural tradition. In the process of conservation, it is important to have the facts correct in

order to properly assess the building’s cultural heritage significance, and, as such,

architectural and aesthetic significance of Wan Chai Market

correctly

identifying

its

architectural

style.

This

lead

to

can the

be properly evaluated only question: what exactly is

the by the

architectural style of the Wan Chai Market? The short answer is: an answer that immediately generates another question in most Moderne?”

Streamline Moderne, which is people: “What is Streamline

Streamline Moderne, also known as Art Moderne, is a late variation of the Art Deco style. The name “Art Deco” originated from the Exposition des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes held in Paris in 1925. The 1930s was the heyday of the Art Deco style in architecture, and it dominated virtually all design areas in the Western world, from graphic to industrial, product, jewellery, furniture, movie and stage set, and interior and architectural design (figs 1, 2 and 3).

Figs. 1, 2 and 3: late-1930s era Streamline Art-Deco consumer products: Silvertone Bullet radio (1939); Pennwood Zephyr clock (1939); Kodak Bantam Special camera (1936). (Image source: (figs. 1 & 2) http://uv201.com; (fig. 3) http://www.wolfsonian.org)

During this period, the style was equally prominent in modern progressive cities in the Far East that were receptive to Western ideas in shaping their built environment, such as the internationalized Chinese city of Shanghai and the British colonial cities of Hong Kong and Singapore, as well as the Dutch colonial city of Bandung (in today’s Indonesia). In these Asian cities, the Art Deco architectural trend lingered on longer than in their Western counterpart, lasting well into the early 1950s before being completely superseded by the aesthetics of Modernism.

Origins of Streamline Moderne Architecture

Like the preceding Classically-based architectural styles, early Art Deco architecture maintained the essence of Classical architecture in terms of the observance of symmetry, proportions and ornamentation. However, unlike Classical architecture, Art Deco adopted an abstract, geometric theme in the ornamentation rather than the more organically derived decorative details of Classicism. Well known examples illustrating this early decorative Art Deco trend are the decorative spires of New York City’s Chrysler Building (1930) and Empire State Building (1931) (figs. 4 and 5). An extant comparable example in Hong Kong is the China Light and Power Building (1949) in Mongkok district, which featured a central stair tower decorated with Art Deco-style geometrical motifs (fig. 6).

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