Art Deco is basically a revolution of style and design for the modern era. Originated in the 1920s, art deco has gained popularity after the World War. Soon, it evolved into a major style in the United States and Western Europe.
Nowadays, the art deco design is one of the most sought-after architectural designs in the modern world. The design is all about creating a sleek and anti-traditional elegance symbolizing sophistication and wealth. In fact, heritage homes in Melbourne that are art deco inspired are among the most in-demand properties in the market. Read on to find out more about art deco, why it’s gaining popularity now and how it is changing the current house architect designs.
What Is Art Deco
The term “art deco” was derived from the name of the art exhibition held in Paris where the art deco style was first introduced. This design represented modernism and has turned into a fashion design. Art deco products consist of individually crafted luxury items as well as mass-produced wares. The main intention of this design is to come up with a sleek elegance that symbolizes wealth and luxury.
The distinguishing characteristics of the art deco style are simple lines and clean shapes. This design is known for its streamlined look with geometric shapes that are made from unusually varied and often expensive materials. Materials sometimes include man-made substances, such as glass and plastics. Other materials used are natural substances, such as rock crystals, silver, and jade.
Among the most formative influences on Art Deco are Bauhaus, Cubism, and Art Nouveau. The decorative ideas used for art deco are often derived from Egyptian and American Indian, as well as nature and early classical sources. Characteristic motifs consist of foliage, animals, female figures and sun rays that are all in a conventionalized form.
Art Deco & Heritage Architecture in Melbourne
The Art Deco style architecture was first developed for the French luxury market right after the end of the World War. Although the art deco architectural designs are decorative, they are considered simple since they do not incorporate any complicated shapes. In the past, art deco was rarely used in residential construction, however art deco-influenced buildings and residential properties are now gaining popularity in Melbourne.
Some of the most distinguished characteristics of art deco inspired buildings are flat roofs with parapet, symmetrical facade, geometric design motifs, smooth wall, and rectangular block forms that are arranged in a geometric fashion.
Heritage buildings that are art deco designed are gaining popularity in the Melbourne market now. As a matter of fact, heritage apartments built during the Art Deco era cost thousands of dollars more than the brick units that were built between the 1960 and 1980. The higher price behind the art deco units can be attributed to their bigger size since a one-bedroom art deco apartment is around 56 square-metre in size, which is about 20% bigger compared to an average flat in Melbourne. The heritage units that have three to four bedrooms, although rare, are still bigger compared to other apartments in Melbourne that have the same bedroom configurations.
Most of the heritage units are also located in Melbourne’s affluent inner-city suburbs such as East Melbourne, South Yarra and Prahran, where the median price of an apartment unit is more than $500,000. Furthermore, a lot of the Art Deco apartments can be found at prime locations and this is one of the reasons behind the higher price. In addition, these areas are usually in places with height restrictions, which means less competition from new apartment developments.
Art Deco Inspired Buildings in Melbourne
Melbourne still has several examples of art deco inspired buildings that are standing today and some of these are very prominent, while others are not as popular.
There are quite a few prominent architects in Melbourne who have worked during the art deco era. One of them is Harry Norris who designed one of the most popular art deco inspired buildings in Melbourne, the Mitchell House. Located in Elizabeth Street, the Mitchell House was built in 1937. It’s a 6-story building that was a headquarters of Thos. Mitchell and Co, a local brush manufacturer. Harry Norris is also known for his work at Sherbrooke, known as the Burnham Beaches, a classic example of what they call as the nautical modern styling.
Another popular art deco inspired building is the McPhersons Building located at 546 Collins Street. This building is also one of Melbourne’s most striking examples of horizontal architecture. It’s made from terracotta tiles and a numerous amount of vitrolite glass.
Architectural Firms Known for their Art Deco Projects
Due to the popularity of art deco architecture, it’s not surprising to find plenty of architectural firms in Melbourne that develops art deco inspired projects. For instance, Melbourne-based architects Sydney Smith and Ogg are the company behind the State Savings Bank in Yarraville. This Art Nouveau-inspired building is a perfect example of art deco architecture.
The St George’s Theatre, another art deco inspired building at Birmingham Street in
Yarraville was built in 1891 and designed by Craven, Brown & Marqua. In 1913, the theatre was made into a cinema shortly after the film Universal Dancing Classes was released. Interestingly, this place was also used to film some scenes for the 1992 movie, Strictly Ballroom.
Perhaps, the most prominent of all art deco buildings in Melbourne is the Manchester Unity Building in Swanston Street. Designed by Marcus Barlow, the building is very popular for its spectacular architectural facade. The tower was built as an homage to the Chicago Tribune Building, which was built in 1932 at the height of the Great Depression.
The Manchester Unity Building’s interiors are as elaborately decorated as its facade. Local marbles were used for the flooring and its four escalators are said to be the first escalators built in the city. After the building was completed, an elaborate gala was held. During the event, Sir Stanley Argyle turned the lights on for the first time last September 1, 1932. Nowadays, the upper floors of the building are used as commercial offices and the ground floor arcade is intended for retail spaces.