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Figs 4, 5 and 6: Art Deco decorated spires of Chrysler Building (1930) and Empire State Building (1931), New York; the Art Deco decorated central stair tower of China Light and Power Building (1949), Hong Kong. (Image source: (fig.4) http://www.adamandlyn.co.uk; (fig. 5) http://www.adabyron.net; (fig. 6) CLP Co. Ltd.)

Around the mid-1930s, Art Deco, as a popular architectural style, began to lose its early decorative splendour as the clean, minimalist functional aesthetics of Early Modernism (known as Bauhaus architecture in Europe and the International Style in the U.S) exercised influence among the avant garde architectural circle. At the same time, Art Deco architecture also came under the influence of the machine aesthetics of industrial design, in particularly, the inherently appealing streamlined bodies of contemporary airplanes, ships, locomotives and automobiles (figs. 7, 8, 9 and 10). It was a time when the affluent in Europe and the U.S. were taking up travel for leisure (the beginning of mass tourism). This emerging tourism industry spurred the design of transportation vehicles that could carry more people faster and farther. The result was a new Streamline aesthetics in industrial design derived from the functional necessity to apply aerodynamics to transportation vehicles, and it set a trend in other areas of design, including that of architecture. It was under such circumstances that Art Deco evolved into a style known as “Streamline Moderne.”

Figs. 7, 8, 9 and 10: 1930s Art Deco posters featuring streamlined transportation vehicles. (Image source: (all) http://www.art.com)

Conditions Leading to the Development of Streamline Moderne Architecture

The development of transportation in the 1930s played a direct role in giving rise to the Streamline Moderne style in architecture. Many of the transport depots, especially those for buses, in the U.S. are designed in the Streamline Moderne style because of the style’s popularity coinciding with the travel boom in that country, made possible by advances in land-transport technology and the development of a nation-wide transportation infrastructure (figs. 11 and 12).


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