• Gebler Tooth Architects

Principles of Art Deco Architecture

A decorative style of bold geometric shapes and bright colours, it encompassed furniture, textiles, ceramics, sculpture and architecture.


Art Deco architecture represents a style of building that is sleek, but not minimal. The architects of the time were inventive in their approach to design. They sought to create structures that were unlike previous revivalist styles. Art Deco buildings are unmistakable and represent an era that was at the centre of the Machine Age.


The movement borrowed Cubism’s bold abstraction and rectilinear shapes and Futurism’s vision for the heights of civilisation, which brought rampant and unapologetic decoration to the style.


Each of these factors distilled Art Deco design into a number of recognisable stylistic characteristics:


  • Symmetry

  • Layered shapes

  • Intricate line art

  • Rectilinear geometry

  • Aerodynamic curves

  • Metallic colours like gold and chrome




Identifying an Art Deco building is not difficult, but it is helpful to be familiar with some of these common elements.


Choice of materials: Art Deco buildings use materials like stucco, terracotta, decorative glass, chrome, steel, and aluminium.


Ornate, geometric detailing: motifs and ornamental details were applied to a building. Some common Art Deco motifs include chevrons, pyramids, stylised sunbursts or florals, zig-zags, and other geometric shapes.


Consistent detailing: A designer or architect would include similar Art Deco elements on both the exterior and interior so that each building carried out a consistent theme.


Contrasting colours: Bright, opulent colours are synonymous with the Art Deco period. Buildings incorporated stark colours like black and white or gold and silver to create contrast.


Fragmented shapes: Many facades were created using vertical lines that were angular and pointed in an upward and outward direction. These triangular shapes were capped off with a series of steps that eventually come to a point.


Decorative, geometric windows: Windows and doors were decorated with geometric designs. The windows could be glass block or a series of opaque glass inserts and were often positioned in a long, horizontal row.


Parapets and spires: Corners of buildings were often decorated with tower-like structures that would make a simple square building seem more opulent.