AN ART DECO TOWNHOUSE BLOCK
ART DECO ARCHITECTURE
Art Deco was inspired by the simple forms of ancient cultures. You will notice in Art Deco, Egyptian and Babylonian motifs, statuary inspired by the metope of Zeus’ Olympia temple; you will recognize in Art Deco, Cycladic idols, Sumerian costume, the intricacies of Persian tiles and carpets, India’s vast immensities and the bold simplicity of Athens’ black-figure ware. Yes, of course there is something in Art Deco of machined production and doodad; yet, the machine is merely veneer, powerful archaic form is Deco’s essence.
And though we see in Art Deco the speeding train, the streamlined aeroplane, Art Deco is a Classive style because it participates in the Beautiful, Good and True … from the archaic through the Classical into the Renaissance, into our American Enlightened Liberty. Art Deco is modern Classive, inasmuch as a century-old style can be modern.
URBANE ART DECO
Art Deco is an urban, urbane style ill-suited to town, suburb, farm. The Art Deco wants a city, a mechanized, organized, gridded place. Art Deco wants metal and glass and clorox and windex and cleanliness. Art Deco wants the clean sophistication of top-hat and tails, girls in gowns glittery, slinky and sleek. Art Deco wants neither earth nor leaf nor worm nor butterfly. Art Deco wants ideas of things, abstracted and distant, safe in the realm of design, that place where moderns go to forget God, to ignore the transcendental, a place to dilate upon bodily pleasures made possible by machines. You will not find an Art Deco person in prayer, reverently touching earth with seed.
Art Deco is for me a favorite style, rich in history, reference, possibility. Art Deco is a style suited to urbanism, to New Urbanism, to neighborhood where the private is public, as in Miami, a center for the new urbanism, a place where families can be nude, together, in exercise, in fashion, in promenade, proud and loud. Though not a style for man in essence, Art Deco is a style for the man of style.
Lately, what was Art Deco, rich in cultural reference, stylish and smart has been stripped of intelligence, internationalized and minimized. The International “stumpy”, that dull, blank box suited to ear-budded humans and zoning offices, has replaced the keen Deco. This newest iteration of the International style is thin as paper, as elementary as the Froebel Block, those many-shaped, many-colored wooden blocks you played with when a child, childlike gathering, stacking, knocking down … those primordial instincts of man. You will notice in Miami and in other places, elementary stumpies pretending to be Deco, but a Deco stripped of history, and therefore of memory, of soul, and of Beauty.
ART DECO HOUSE CHARACTERISTICS
Flat, with the occasional tower or parapet.
Windows are usually vertical, often decorated with a geometric band. A large central window might be flanked with a row of smaller panes. Sometimes, glass block, though glass block is usually reserved for Streamline Moderne. Muntins most often of some-or-other metal.
Structure and Materials
Stucco. In rare instances, brick or block.
Space and Floor Plan
Asymmetrical rectangular. Plans are usually more open than other houses of the period, yet the Art Deco house is usually loyal to the organization of family and pacing of the day.
Front doors can be theatrical. You will often find a porch roof unsupported by column, bracket, or pilaster, just, kind of, sticking out, like a tongue or frisbee.
There will be geometric bands standing-in for frieze and cornice. You will see chevrons and zigzags, florals and starbursts and other loud motifs.
White or pastel with complementary polychromy in the ornamentation.
A formalized geometric patio with integrated water and fire elements is not uncommon. Since often in warm climates, the Art Deco house will be planted with bright-bold flowers and big-leafed plants.
There is little variation Deco to Deco, though subtle variations separate Art Deco from Moderne from International. Often, all three styles are housed under one categorical roof, though in this, architectural historians and magazine columnists are mistaken. The Moderne and International styles are Progressive, soulless and unlovable. The Art Deco is Classive, rich in the visual language of civilized nature, so the Art Deco is often souled, and loved.
ART DECO TOWNHOUSE
This deep and narrow Art Deco townhouse block is suited to an infill city lot, is sized to reduce construction cost and sales price. The facade is beautiful, so that it might enrich a city, is efficient so that it might ease a family. The public rooms are light-filled and open, the private rooms are convenient and cozy. The front unit has a commercial space at ground-level, a space that can be owner-occupied or rented. Other units feature a garage with workroom, office or laundry. The interior will like those little Deco touches … surprise niches, decorative tiles, stylish applique, et cetera.
There are three variations of the block: A, five units of 1,990 gross-square-feet (gsf); B, four units of 2,618 gsf to 3,294 gsf; C, four units of various sizes. Block “A” is most economical to builder and buyer, while “C” offers most flexibility, even to becoming a single-family house with yard and a rentable, independent suite. Too, block C has the potentiality of an elevator and roof-deck.
ART DECO TOWNHOUSE BLOCK PLAN
102’-6” Depth (var.)
296 First Floor GSF
847 Second Floor GSF
847 Third Floor GSF
10’-0” First Floor Ceiling
2 1/2 Bathrooms
16′-0″ x 12′-0″
3′-0″ x 5′-9″
4′-6″ x 4′-10″
19′-6″ x 18′-10″
19′-6″ x 12′-o”
19′-6″ x 12′-0″
12′-0″ x 11′-0″
18′-6″ x 12′-0″
6′-6″ x 8′-0″
4′-6″ x 6′-0″ ap. ea.
11′-0″ x 10′-0″
9′-0″ x 10′-0″ var.
10′-0″ x 6′-0″
* * *
Touch this link for the Art Deco of The Beautiful Home.
* * *