Echo Deco

by wjw on October 2, 2012

Here’s a photo of Chicago’s NBC building taken at Worldcon a month or so ago.

With its vertical lines, symmetry, setbacks, towering mast, and flying buttresses (!!!), the building is a clear example of Art Deco.

Except that this building dates from the wrong era.  Art Deco was created in the 1920s and died (as an architectural style) with the Great Depression, when no one could afford to build skyscrapers any more.  As an industrial design movement, Deco died with the end of World War II.

This building, however, was built in the 1970s, and in a deliberately anachronistic style that has been called “Echo Deco.”

By the way, did you know that “Art Deco” was a term that didn’t come along until the 1960s?  During its heydey, Deco was known as Style Moderne, Streamline Moderne, or simply Streamline.  (All this Moderne to be distinguished from Modernism, which was another architectural movement altogether.)

Ralf The Dog. October 2, 2012 at 9:35 am

Looks like a big spaceship or a Viagra add.

TRX October 2, 2012 at 10:31 am

The British “Hercule Poirot” movies with David Suchet make extensive use of Art Deco buildings for their location shots. Since there simply aren’t that many Art Deco buildings available for the film crew, they sometimes re-use the same buildings in different movies.

The films mostly take place in the 1930s, and the dressers and prop people are fastidious about keeping things period-correct. Yes, they’re just movies, but it’s interesting to see the buildings “live” with people going about their daily business.

John Appel October 2, 2012 at 9:45 pm

I love the style and feel of Art Deco for some reason. It’s one of those things that I don’t try to analyze, but just accept that it appeals to me. Perhaps it’s just that as a style, it demonstrates that things can look beautiful without being excessively ornate – and still be functional, to boot.

It’s always a pleasure to be cruising around and stumble upon a an Art Deco building somewhere you don’t expect to find one – on a busy street in Sydney, for example, or in an area of London that was otherwise flattened during the Blitz.

wjw October 4, 2012 at 4:02 am

Deco was the last architectural movement that didn’t come with an ideology attached. Deco says “We live in an amazing place, and we’re happy about where we’re going.”

Whereas modernist buildings just say, “We’re more important than you proles.” You could have a red star, a swastika, or the Stars & Stripes on top of a modernist building: the message would be the same.

Dave Doolin October 6, 2012 at 11:28 pm

I’m a big fan of what I like to call “Mid-Century Movie Theater” style.

Like Googie, but more so.

wjw October 7, 2012 at 6:27 am

I like Googie, too. There’s something refreshing and delightful in a style so unapologetically commercial.

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