A spotter’s guide to Art Deco architecture

The bold, geometric, decorative look of Art Deco originated in France in the 1920s.

It gained prominence in architectural design and was heavily influenced by Egypt – particularly after the high profile discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922. During the 1930s, the style was widely adopted through Western Europe and the United States.

Art Deco style stalls bar in Her Majesty's Theatre, Haymarket
Art Deco style stalls bar in Her Majesty’s Theatre, Haymarket © Historic England AA020571

A sleeker more cosmopolitan development of Art Nouveau, Art Deco was first used on public and commercial buildings for both its practicality and modern design. Signature characteristics of Art Deco include geometric shapes and angular corners broken up by ornamental motifs. Entrances are often extravagant, roofs tend to be flat and windows can made up of continuous bands of glass.

Art Deco style Interior of the Strand Palace Hotel
Interior view of the Strand Palace Hotel showing art deco furnishings in the foyer © Historic England AA98/05945
A curved Art Deco staircase made up of rectangular panels
Art Deco Fountain Staircase in the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, now the Royal Shakespeare Theatre © Historic England CC47/02373

Art Deco remains one of the most distinctive architectural styles.

Here we take a look at five iconic Art Deco buildings in England, some of which have been developed for contemporary use:

1. The Hoover Building, Ealing, London

The façade of the Hoover Building in London
The façade of the Hoover Building, Ealing © Historic England DP103893

The UK base of the Hoover Company, founded in Ohio in 1908, occupied this purpose-built Art Deco factory from 1933. Once dedicated to manufacturing and repairs, the Grade II* listed site is now home to luxury flats, after being bought in 2005. It retains many of the factory’s original features and distinctive signage.

2. Battersea Power Station, Nine Elms, London

View of Battersea Power Station from the north bank of the River Thames (1945-1980) © Historic England AA98/05903
View of Battersea Power Station from the north bank of the River Thames (1945-1980) © Historic England AA98/05903

Perhaps the most famous power station in Britain, Battersea was built in the 1930s and 1950s by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. This icon of London’s industrial past was decommissioned in 1983 and granted Grade II* listed status.

Now undergoing extensive refurbishment to house offices and luxury apartments, Battersea has also been immortalised in popular culture including the cover art for Pink Floyd’s ‘Animals’ album, the 1965 Beatles film ‘Help’, and Christopher Nolan’s 2008 Batman film.

3. The Midland Hotel, Morecambe

Facade of The Midland Hotel in Morecambe
The Midland Hotel in Morecambe © Historic England DP056382

One of the most famous and stylish buildings of the 1930s, coastal landmark the Midland Hotel was designed by British architect Oliver Hill. It features prominent curvature,  complimenting nearby Morecambe promenade, allowing guests to have panoramic views of the North West coast.

In 1998 the hotel closed due to its state of disrepair and remained derelict for almost ten years before its revival by extensive restoration in 2008 .

4. Carreras Cigarette Factory, Kings Cross, London

Exterior of Greater London House including statue of a cat
Greater London House (Carreras Works), Hampstead Road, Camden, London © Historic England DP103866

Grade II* listed Carreras Cigarette Factory was designed by architects M.E and O.H Collins and A.G Porri. Before the creation of the grand factory the building was a small shop famous for the local cat that napped in its window – this is where the company got its black cat logo from. Egyptian style columns adorn the exterior and two giant cat effigies at the entrance symbolising the Egyptian goddess of protection.

5. Daily Express building, Manchester

Exterior of The Daily Express Building in Manchester
The Daily Express Building in Manchester via Wikimedia Commons

The Daily Express building in Manchester is Grade II* listed and was built in 1939. It was designed by Sir Owen Williams using opaque and pigmented structural glass giving it a futuristic Art Deco appearance. Newspaper production ceased in 1993 and the building is now home to start-up offices for media companies and apartments.

Do you have a favourite Art Deco building? Tell us in the comments.

Further reading

 

4 responses to A spotter’s guide to Art Deco architecture

  1. My favourite art deco building is my house despite the fact that the roof is challenging to maintain and it’s very very hot in the summer!

    Like

  2. Paul little says:

    Unfortunately the Hoover building has been spoilt by developers adding a pitched roof, its completely ruined the art deco budings linear form.

    Liked by 1 person

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