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An intro to Streamline Moderne

Streamline Moderne

A late branch off of the Art Deco movement (1930s-50s)

Why Streamline Moderne?
Streamline Moderne and its design style reflected the growth of speed, travel and technology in the 1930s. The architectural style of buildings looked similar to that of the new technology - automobiles, trains, ocean ships and airplanes.

It reflected the law of aerodynamics - in architectural form.

How is it different from Art Deco?
Art Deco was lavish and excessive, reflecting the economy of the 1920s (also known as the Roaring Twenties). But when the Great Depression hit, design styles had to be adjusted in order to cut costs. Here's how Streamline Moderne strayed from the Art Deco movement:

  • Lavish decoration was cut
  • reflected America's love affair with the new machine age
  • More influenced by aerodynamic design of planes, train and automobiles
  • Popularity of ocean liners was reaching its peak at this point
  • More simple and functional

New technology like the 1935 Hindenburg airship was a Streamline Moderne influence.

The 1934 Chrysler Airflow was readily compared to the streamlined trains of the time.

Elements of Streamline Moderne

  • clean, curved shapes and rounded corners
  • long horizontal lines
  • occasional nautical elements (such as stainless steel railings and porthole windows)
  • occasional bas-relief panels (depicting tropical scenes)
  • lack of decoration or ornamentation
  • bands of windows
  • flat roofs
  • racing stripes to give the feeling of speed and motion
  • white or light-colored stucco walls
  • Glass blocks, grouped windows

Take a look at a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Los Angeles built in 1939: both the exterior and interior. It looks like a ocean liner!

Materials and colours used
Vitrolite, glass block, chrome, stainless steel, terrazzo, and neon. Base colors were typically light earth tones, usually off-whites or beiges. Trim Colors were typically bright or dark, to contrast the light color of the walls.

More examples
From pencil sharpeners to World Fairs…
You could find Streamline Moderne in almost any medium. This included Greyhound bus stations, theatres, international and civic buildings, hotels and resorts, garages, schools, and diners. A lot of Hollywood homes have this style, as well as retro diners.

Meckley China
pulp o rama
Art Deco Society

  1. MayMay saidTue, 28 Oct 2008 12:03:53 -0000 ( Link )

    Cool lesson, Tiff! Quick question – Who’s the celebrity behind the Hollywood home? I think I have an idea…

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