Art Deco is definitive style movement that spanned the early part of the 20th century and reached its peak in the boom of the Roaring 1920s and the depression of the 1930s.
The name comes from the French Arts Décoratifs which in turn originated from the great 1925 Paris exhibition, the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes.
[A]rt Deco had a huge influence on all forms of design over the period – from fashion to film, from decorative arts to building design. Spanning the globe, the movement was unique and unashamedly modern. Some of the most incredible Art Deco architecture in the world can be found in London, and I’d like to share five of the capital’s best loved buildings.
If there’s an Art Deco jewel in the crown it has to be Claridge’s hotel. This beautifully designed building of the 1920s still has many of its original features and is one of the most stylish art deco buildings anywhere in the world. Its sweeping curves and bold lines give Claridge’s the unmistakable air of timeless elegance.
During the late 1920s, Claridge’s needed to modernise to keep up with the young wealthy set who dined, danced and champagne’d their way through the night there. Art Deco pioneer Basil Lonides was commissioned to redesign a few of the hotel’s suites as well as their restaurant. His magnificent engraved glass screens still adorn the restaurant today.
In 1996, Claridge’s underwent a major refurbishment and design restoration. New York based designer Thierry Despont, inspired by photographs from 1920s, reinvented the foyer area into modern Art Deco style – his centrepiece was the incredibly beautiful, up-to-the minute Dale Chihuly chandelier. David Collins was then commissioned to create the new Claridge’s Bar and in so doing helped the hotel step into the 21st century in a dramatically modern Art Deco way.
The Carreras Cigarette Factory
This extraordinarily massive Art Deco building in Camden, North London, originally built as a factory, is a striking example of early 20th century Egyptian Revival architecture. The building is 550 feet long, and is mainly white. Originally, the entrance was flanked by two enormous effigies of black cats but these were lost when the building was converted into offices in 1961. However, they were replaced during renovations in the late 1990s and can now again be seen outside the entrance.
Battersea Power Station
This iconic former power station, best known for its four-chimney layout, is one of the largest brick buildings in the world and has become one of London’s best-known landmarks. Its celebrity status was established after its appearance in the 1965 Beatles’ film Help!, and it also featured on the cover Pink Floyd’s 1977 album Animals.
Battersea Power Station is notable for its sumptuous Art Deco interior decor and fittings. Some of the interior walls are lined with grey Ribbon Napoleon marble and there’s Belgian Black marble fluting around the windows. Some of the ceilings still have the original Holophane light fittings and the interior also retains its original L-shaped control panel and walnut veneer furniture.
Largely unused since its closure in 1983, Battersea Power Station’s condition deteriorated to the point that English Heritage described it as ‘very bad’. However, as part of its redevelopment, luxury apartments are now being built. Two-bedroom apartments designed by architect Frank Gehry are priced at £1.39m, while homes are being marketed for £1.55m and upwards.
Work has already started on the chimneys which will be painstakingly dismantled and rebuilt to ensure they remain the iconic London landmark that they are. When the Power Station reopens in 2020, all four will be fully reconstructed and repainted.
Florin Court, on the eastern side of Charterhouse Square in Smithfield, London, has become one of the most well-known Art Deco apartment blocks in the city. Built in 1936 by Guy Morgan and Partners, this stunning Grade II Listed building has an elegant and curved façade typical of the period.
Refurbished in the 1980s to the designs of Hildebrand and Cricker, Florin Court now has 120 apartments arranged over nine floors. The building famously became Whitehaven Mansions, the fictional residence of Hercule Poirot in the BBC TV series.
One of the rarest apartments is on the second floor. It has two double bedrooms with built-in wardrobes and an attractive reception room with a one-of-a-kind Art Deco curved wall and window.
On the roof, there’s a newly-landscaped terrace with skyline views of the city, a swimming pool, sauna, spa and a gymnasium.
The Daily Express Building
Designed by Ellis and Clark Architects as the headquarters of the Daily Express newspaper, this wonderful Fleet Street building is another example of London’s exquisite Art Deco heritage. The unique exterior has a dramatic black façade with rounded corners in vitrolite and clear glass, with chrome strips.
In the flamboyant lobby, you’ll find an oval staircase, silver and gilt decorations and a stunning silvered pendant lamp. The furniture was, for the most part, designed by Betty Joel; Goldman Sachs now occupies the building.
Lloyd Wells; freelance journalist from London but living elsewhere – partnering with independent team of building professionals and scientists, Hutton & Rostron, for this and a few other posts covering London architecture.
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