We’re assuming you love Mid Century Modern (we do too!), but there are so many different styles of architecture found within the Modern Era. Streamline Moderne or Art Moderne was a style of Art Deco that—while markedly distinct—shares some characteristics with the modernist architecture we so enjoy. Here we take a look at this captivating and forward-thinking movement.
Highly decorative and ornate, Art Deco was popular during the 1920s and 1930s. The opulent style was a sign of the times. With the end of the first World War, people longed to look forward into a brighter future. That optimistic world of tomorrow came in the form of the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, a benchmark event in Paris and where the term for the style was derived. However, the phrase “Art Deco” wasn’t coined until decades later in the mid 1960s.
Transition To Streamline
As the Great Depression approached, styles began shifting once more. Opulence started to seem unnecessary and architects and designers looked toward function and efficiency. As the world was heading into the machine age, designs took an on industrial form that was seen in everything from cars to trains to commercial and residential buildings and even home appliances. The Streamline Moderne style emphasized horizontality and curved lines and was essentially “streamlined,” even in architecture, for a more aerodynamic aesthetic. The movement took cues from the Bauhaus and International Styles, focusing on stripping away the unnecessary.
Mostly popular in the 1930s and 40s, the Streamline Moderne style utilized low-cost and readily available materials. From shiny futuristic toasters to beautifully curved Bakelite pencil sharpeners, attractive designs were now becoming accessible to the masses.
Further Promoting Streamline Moderne
Just as the 1925 expo in Paris popularized Art Deco, the Streamline Moderne/Art Moderne movements were further promoted during the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933. Designed as a showcase for modern living, the fair was created in part to stimulate the economy during the Great Depression. The construction was led by a group of young architects who designed many of the exhibitions in a cohesive Art Moderne aesthetic.
Similarly, the 1939 New York World’s Fair, with the theme “The World of Tomorrow,” increased the popularity of the style. Perhaps most notably is Norman Bel Geddes General Motors exhibit. The pavilion featured “Futurama,” a large scale model of an American city in 1960 showcasing forward-thinking skyscrapers, complex superhighways and helicopter landing pads.
While Mid Century Modern and Streamline Moderne are still their own distinct styles, there are some similarities in regard to functionality, forward-thinking, clean lines and availability to the masses. So, are you a Mid Century Modern purist or do you have soft-spot for the whimsical architecture of Streamline Moderne?
Looking for more architectural style history? Check out this post all about International Style. Or learn more about Brutalism, here.