30 Iconic Art Deco Buildings That Will Inspire Your Aesthetic
If sunbursts, gold zigzags, and grand entrances are your thing, these 30 iconic art deco buildings offer a treasure trove of inspiration.
The Art Deco movement started in France in 1925. Its name is derived from the world fair where it was born: the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. While it ran rampant through the world's fashion, architecture, and film, it wasn't actually referred to as "Art Deco" until four decades later. (In 1968, art historian Bevis Hillier coined the term in his book Art Deco of the 20s and 30s.)
Like most other design styles, Art Deco is a mishmash of different elements. It was infinitely more modern than anything people had seen before, but it also took inspiration from ancient Egyptian and Aztec design. As a result, it became an odd combination of sleek, futuristic buildings and busy, geometric shapes. It also incorporated natural elements like animals, the female form, and the sun's rays. In terms of color, Art Deco used contrasting and unlikely combinations: red and yellow, green and orange, and blue and pink. Lavish, shiny surfaces also became a cornerstone of the design style, so it's not uncommon to see ornate gold detailing and tons of marble.
Soon enough, Art Deco became synonymous with luxury. (Think The Great Gatsby's sprawling mansion, over-the-top displays, and sparkly fashion.) Art Deco continued throughout the '30s, and while it took a break during World War II due to the era's less than uplifting atmosphere, it had a comeback in the '60s. By the 1980s, Art Deco was back in full swing.
Now, people prefer to include a touch of glamour rather than overwhelming the entire room (or the entire building) — but there are some spots where the Art Deco influence never really left. Most of these iconic buildings were constructed during the height of this luxe design style — and if sunbursts, zigzags, and grand entrances are your thing, they're the perfect way to inspire your aesthetic.
1. Chrysler Building: New York City, United States
Located in the Turtle Bay neighborhood of Manhattan, the Chrysler Building is one of the most iconic Art Deco-style skyscrapers in the world. William Van Alen's design was completed in 1930; it was shaped by the progress, glamour, and innovative styles of the time. While it didn't remain the tallest for long, its sunburst pattern and distinctive tiers set it apart from similar skyscrapers of that era.
2. Palais De Tokyo: Paris, France
As of 2012, this building became the largest center for contemporary art in Europe. The Palais de Tokyo (or "Tokyo Palace" in English) was constructed in 1937. Now, it's split into two wings and showcases the work of established and emerging artists from all over the world. While it's not the most embellished Art Deco building, its Aztec-style columns and subtle use of geometry make it especially gorgeous.
3. Guardian Building: Detroit, United States
Located in Detroit's downtown financial district, the Guardian Building was built in 1928 and now serves as an office building. While the exterior features iconic tangerine-colored terra cotta and an intricate roofline, this picture showcases the interior. Warm colors, textured zigzags, and bold arches can be found throughout the building.
4. Empire State Building: New York City, United States
Much of the New York City skyline is inspired by the Art Deco movement — but few buildings are as recognizable as the Empire State Building. As rumor has it, Walter Chrysler and John Jakob Raskob entered into a competition to see who could build the world's tallest skyscraper. Completed in 1931, the Empire State Building took the win. It became a symbol of hope amid the Great Depression, and it was the tallest building in the world for almost 40 years.
5. National Basilica of the Sacred Heart: Brussels, Belgium
This Roman Catholic church reportedly took over 64 years to build. King Leopold II laid the first stone in 1905, but the World Wars took priority, and the church wasn't finished until 1969. Despite its construction spanning decades, the design is heavily influenced by the styles of the '20s and '30s — namely the rounded cupolas, the sharp angles, and the huge columns.
6. Hoover Building: London, United Kingdom
Now, it's made up of apartments, but when it first opened in 1933, the Hoover building served as a headquarters and vacuum manufacturing plant for The Hoover Company (hence its name). It has obviously been renovated, but Art Deco influences can still be found in the terrazzo flooring and unique window shapes.
7. Los Angeles City Hall: Los Angeles, United States
Completed in 1928, Los Angeles City Hall was made with water from each of California's 21 historical missions and sand from its 58 counties. It's the tallest base-isolated building in the world (it's designed to withstand California earthquakes) and currently serves as the city's government center.
8. Cinema Impero: Asmara, Eritrea
Cinema Impero (or Empire Cinema) is still a functioning theater in Eastern Africa. It was built during the Italian colonization period in Eritrea, and its vertical lettering and three columns of windows are virtually the same as they were back then. The dark red is contrasted by deep gold accents — one of the most popular color combinations of the Art Deco movement.
9. The Imperial Hotel: New Delhi, India
This luxury hotel has nine restaurants, a spa, a salon, and a museum, which houses the largest collection of colonial and post-colonial artifacts in Delhi. It's made quite a few lists of the world's best hotels — and though its design is primarily a mix of modern, victorian, and colonial styles, you can sense the Art Deco influences in the square arches, slim windows, and textured cornices.
10. Langham Yangtze Boutique Hotel: Shanghai, China
The Langham Yangtze Boutique Hotel in Shanghai was founded in 1933. Architect Li Pan intended for the hotel to be among the best Art Deco buildings in history, and it remains this way today. In 2009, the hotel reopened after a $30 million renovation (pictured above), but the building still exudes glam Art Deco style with its zig-zag balconies and jaw-dropping stained glass skylights.
11. Griffith Observatory: Los Angeles, United States
Gaze at the night sky through a telescope — or catch a live show, explore exhibits, and get a great view of the Hollywood sign. The Griffith Observatory was finished in 1935 and was given to the city of Los Angeles so long as it agreed to admit the public for free. Yes, it's a haven for science lovers, but its clean, rectangular exterior and bold domes speak more to Art Deco enthusiasts.
12. LeVeque Tower: Columbus, United States
This 47-story skyscraper is the second-tallest in the city of Columbus, Ohio, and it cost roughly $7.8 million to build. (Back in 1927, that wasn't exactly cheap.) Designer C. Howard Crane took inspiration from the art moderne style and channeled it into the Byzantine accents, cream-colored terra cotta, and intricate interior mosaics.
13. Daily Express Building: London, United Kingdom
Home of the British tabloid Daily Express, this building looks much younger than it actually is — mostly thanks to its spaceship-like curves and shiny black exterior. In actuality, it was built in 1939 and was considered extremely radical for the time, which is why it's part Art Deco and part futurist.
14. Umaid Bhawan Palace: Jodhpur, India
Believe it or not, the above building isn't a museum or a hotel — not entirely, anyway. It's actually one of the world's largest private residences, and you can find it in Jodhpur, India. It has 347 rooms and was commissioned by a king who wanted to provide work for his farmers during a drought. The architect, Henry Vaughan Lanchester, blended western technology with Indian style to create one of the world's most famous Art Deco homes.
15. Fisher Building: Detroit, United States
The Fisher Building was constructed in 1928 as "an ode to the American work ethic and to American artisans." Now, it's home to a theater and countless shops while functioning as a location for film shoots, weddings, and exhibitions. The exterior has an iconic hipped roof and sophisticated detail work, but this picture highlights the elaborate ceiling paintings and towering arches inside.
16. The Wiltern: Los Angeles, United States
Attached to the Pellissier building, the Wiltern is one of the most celebrated examples of Art Deco architecture — both in L.A. and the world. It's still a fully functioning theater and has hosted live concerts, televised events, and feature film sets. The exterior has an old-style marquee and bluish-green glazed terra cotta tiles, while the inside has colorful murals and ornate ceiling designs.
17. Eltham Palace: London, United Kingdom
This massive mansion was built hundreds of years ago during medieval times, but an Art Deco extension was added in the 1930s; the interior design followed suit, and now it's regarded as a "masterpiece" that "evokes the style and glamour of the '30s." It also has sprawling gardens, which are open to the public and are often rented out for weddings.
18. Hotel Breakwater: Miami Beach, United States
This hotel is part of the Miami Beach Architectural District — also known as the Miami Art Deco District. The area was home to Italian designer Gianni Versace and while there are countless hotels in the area, the Breakwater is considered one of the best Art Deco buildings in Miami. The blue light-up sign is an icon of the city and can be seen from miles away.
19. La Piscine Museum: Roubaix, France
Fine art, literature, and innovation are all pretty standard for a museum, but an indoor swimming pool? Not so much. La Piscine gets its name from the 50-meter pool that stretches from one end of its hall to the other. It was built in 1932 by architect Albert Baert, who also put in massive semi-circle windows to symbolize the rising and setting of the sun. While it's no longer a functioning swimming pool, it adds additional drama to the statues and geometrically patterned balconies.
20. Palacio de Bellas Artes: Mexico City, Mexico
Translated as the Palace of Fine Arts, the Palacio de Bellas Artes is one of the most prominent buildings in Mexico City. Painting, literature, opera, dance, theater, photography — it all happens here. While the exterior is a combination of Art Nouveau and Neoclassical, the interior is all Art Deco; it's covered in Carrara marble and has modern geometric accents just about everywhere you look.
21. Battersea Power Station: London, United Kingdom
From its final day of construction in 1955 to its decommissioning in 1975, this power station burned coal to create electricity. Even though it's no longer in use, it sits on the south bank of the River Thames and is known as both a landmark and a beautiful example of ornate Art Deco designs. There have been various attempts to restore and reopen the building, but none were successful — until now. The location is set to reopen to the public in 2021.
22. Teatro Eden: Lisbon, Portugal
When Teatro Eden opened in 1931, it showed popular silent movies — but it closed in 1989 and stayed vacant for years. Now it's an upscale 134-room boutique hotel known as the Orion Eden, and its towering Art Deco facade is an icon of the Baixa district in Lisbon.
23. Boston Avenue Methodist Church: Tulsa, United States
Now known as a "historic church for modern people," the Boston Avenue Methodist Church was completed in 1929 and cost about $1.25 million dollars to build. It's considered one of the most notable examples of Art Deco architecture in the US, and its design combines lavish materials (like granite, limestone, and terra cotta) with spiritual motifs.
24. Peace Hotel: Shanghai, China
The Peace Hotel consists of two buildings: The South Building, which dates back to the 1850s, and the North Building, which was built in the 1920s. The latter was designed with an Art Deco theme inside and out, and has retained the motif even throughout its most recent renovation.
25. Paramount Theater: Oakland, United States
The Paramount Theater was built during the rise of the movie industry and was the largest multi-purpose theater on the West Coast. It still screens classic movies today, but it also hosts live performances from music groups, comics, ballet groups, and symphony orchestras. This photo showcases the inside, but the building's massive exterior mosaic can be seen up and down the street.
26. Tribune Tower: Chicago, United States
While the skyscraper's final design might be neo-Gothic, its construction changed architecture forever. In 1922, Chicago Tribune publisher Colonel Robert R. McCormick issued a competition to create "the most beautiful office building in the world." Over 260 architects submitted ideas, and many of them included modernist features and streamlined designs that would later come to be known as Art Deco.
27. Palais de la Méditerranée: Nice, France
When the Palais de la Méditerranée was built in 1929, it "epitomized 1930s glamour." Most would argue that it still does. This luxury hotel-casino in Nice, France has nine floors and five stars, and the exterior features ample lighting, quintessential Art Deco lettering, and plenty of beautiful arches.
28. Stoclet Palace: Brussels, Belgium
This Belgian mansion was built in the early 1900s. Per its name, it was created for Adolphe Stoclet — a banker who loved art — and it's still in the Stoclet family today. It's a private building that doesn't allow visitors, but the public can admire its boxy construction, paned windows, and Art Deco turrets from the outside.
29. House of Hungarian Art Nouveau: Budapest, Hungary
Art Nouveau and Art Deco have several distinct differences (the former is more flowery, while the latter is more streamlined), but they share similarities, too. They both emerged from modernity, embraced geometric shapes, and appreciated ornate texture, which is why they often bleed into each other. The House of Hungarian Art Nouveau is a gallery and a museum that's fully dedicated to (you guessed it) Art Nouveau, and it's considered "an absolute must for history fans" visiting Budapest.
30. Waldorf-Astoria Hotel: New York City, United States
The Waldorf Astoria was the first hotel in history to offer electricity and private bathrooms. It was built in 1893 and has nearly 1,500 rooms. Gold lettering and ornate detailing adorn the outside while the interior retains the original Art Deco motifs.