Friday, June 29, 2007

From Deco to Googie

Christopher Wigren wrote an article in the Hartford Courant that does a pretty good job of explaining 30s- and 40s-era art deco architecture, noting its transition from the jazz-age decorative school to the Depression-era streamlined school.

I particularly appreciate Wilgren's description of the Moderne style. He describes buildings that "typically have strong horizontal lines, both in their massing and in bands of ornament or long, ribbon-like windows that reinforce that overall shape. Corners are frequently rounded off to emphasize the horizontal movement by carrying it smoothly around the building. Glass block is a favorite material, and sometimes there is a suggestion of nautical or aerodynamic styling."

The article illustrates its terms with references to deco-architecture found in Hartford, Connecticut, but the general theme of the piece is useful to the beginning student of the style, regardless of location. In honor of Wigren's piece, I thought I'd upload some matchbook covers from my collection that illustrate the streamline moderne aspects he noted: horizontal lines, nautical theming, relatively simple ornament, and an evocation of futurism and progress.

Incidentally, I've also found an article by Richard Foss in Los Angeles City Beat that describes that city's particular transformation of the Moderne sensibility into googie, a reflection and response to the international style that itself flowed from the modern (if not the "moderne") period. Foss quotes architect Victor Newlove who explains, "We embraced the international style, with lots of glass and modern materials. We wanted the screens, the walls, the artwork to be part of the dining experience. There’s no cultural anchor. Look at the Norms coffee shops that had a roof like a flying wing. It was evocative of an age, the age of speed."

Happily, a number of preservationists and entrepreneurs agree that some life may yet be left in a style that once signified tomorrow.

Learn More

Deseret News, Modernism brought radical new look

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