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The Dawn of Deco II

Patterns and Designs

From skyscrapers and movie houses to gas stations and private homes, the idea of using icons in architecture became the height of fashion. Renown for its Moderne Deco architecture, the streets of of Miami, Florida are lined with buildings like the one shown here.

The terra-cotta facing and the strong vertical bands are typical Art Deco features borrowed from antiquity. Other characteristics of the style include zigzag designs, echoing patterns and vivid colors that would delight the slumbering Egyptian king.

King Tut Goes Mod

When Howard Carter opened the tomb of the ancient Egyptian king, Tutankhamen, the world was dazzled by the brilliance of the treasure.

Vivid color, strong lines and undulating, repeating patterns are a trademark of Art Deco design, especially in the Modern Deco buildings of the 1930s. Some buildings are embellished with flowing waterfall effects. Others present colors in bold, geometric blocks.

But, Art Deco design is about more than color and ornamental patterns. The very shape of these buildings expresses a fascination for orderly forms and primitive architecture. The early Art Deco skyscrapers suggest Egyptian or Assyrian pyramids with terraced steps rising to the top.

Built in 1931, the Empire State Building in New York City is an example of tiered, or stepped, design.

Steps in Time


Skyscrapers built during the 1920s and early 1930s may not have the brilliant colors or zigzag designs we associate with the Art Deco style. However, these buildings often took on a distinctive Art Deco shape: The ziggurat.

A ziggurat is a terraced pyramid with each story smaller than the one below it. Art Deco skyscrapers may have complex groupings of rectangles or trapezoids. Sometimes two contrasting materials are used to create subtle bands of color, a strong sense of line, or the illusion of pillars. The logical progression of steps and the rhythmical repetition of shapes suggest ancient architecture, yet also celebrate a new, technological era.

Art Deco is an eclectic style — a conglomeration of influences from many cultures and historic periods. It’s easy to overlook the Egyptian elements in the design of a posh theater or a streamlined diner. But the tomblike shape of twentieth century “ziggurats” make it clear that the world was in a tizzy over King Tut.


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