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Inter-War Art Deco c. 1915—C. 1940

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  022 Bryant House 023 Grand United Building 033 Kyle House
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  035 Railway House 036 David Jones 044 389 George Street
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  04 Museum of Contemporary Art 03 Anzac War Memorial  4 Martin Place
003  Challis House
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  44 Martin Place
007  Henry Davis York Building (Old MLC Building)
53 Martin Place
009 Australian Provincial Assurance
08 State Theatre 
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  010 Former Grace Building 13 Dorchester House
149 Macquarie Street
27 Burley Griffin Incinerator
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  36 Metro Cinema, Kings Cross 02 Rural Bank Martin Place 10 Prudential Building
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  005 Sutherland Hotel 006 County Clare Inn 007 Hotel Broadway
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  009 Hotel Hollywood 023 Marlborough Hotel 38 The Rose, Shamrock and Thistle
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  37 The Albury 39 The Burdekin 40 The Piccadilly
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  41 The Unicorn    
Originating in Europe, the modern movement was the most potent architectural development during the inter-war decades, and it was effectively publicised by avant-garde critics and historians of the period (see INTER-WAR FUNCTIONALIST). But the works of Le Corbusier, Gropius, Mies van der Rohe and other mainstream modernists were too severe and radical to win widespread popular acceptance. Ordinary people who liked cocktails, the Charleston, streamlined cars and chromium- plated electric toasters responded much more easily and happily to Art Deco. This visually stimulating and intellectually undemanding style first came into prominence at the Exposition des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes held in Paris in 1925. Art Deco motifs came to be especially favoured for both the exteriors and interiors of distinctively twentieth-century building types such as the cinema and the skyscraper.
Art Deco celebrated the exciting, dynamic aspects of the machine age and, unlike the more cerebral, abstract International style, it unashamedly made a direct assault on the emotions by the use of vivid decorative elements which served no particular function. Straight lines—often three in parallel—were used horizontally, vertically and diagonally in conjunction with geometric curves. Low-relief sculpture was popular: it was heavily stylised and tended to be rather naïvely symbolic of speed, power, industry or progress.
Inter-War Art Deco in Australia frequently appeared in commercial and residential interiors and in shopfronts. In the 1930S the cinema and the milk bar each drew heavily on the style and did much to make it popular. Eye-catching materials and finishes were preferred, such as chromium- plated steel, plywood faced with exotic veneers, and coloured opaque glass (Vitrolite and Carrara glass). Many multi-storey office buildings of the period have survived, their façades often achieving a soaring quality by the use of strongly modelled vertical piers or fins and featuring coloured terracotta cladding (sometimes with the colour graduated over the height of the façade) above a base of polished granite.

Anzac Memorial, Hyde Park, Sydney, NSW. C. Bruce Dellit, architect, 1934. A quintessential example of Art Deco, in form, detail and massing.
ACA Building, Queen Street, Melbourne, Vie. Hennessy & Hennessy, architects (attrib.), C. 1936. The vertical fins terminate in typical spirit, stepped forms.

Quoted from:
"A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Austrlian Architecture; Styles and Terms from 1788 to the Present"
Angus & Robertson Sydney 1995 ISBN 0207 18562 X
Copyright © 1989 by Richard Apperly, Robert Irving and Peter Reynolds.

Australian War Memorial; building completed 1941; Byzantine_architecture style with strong styling elements of art_deco throughout
The Waterfall style and Art Deco combined, Heidelberg, Victoria
The largely French-inspired styles of the era between World Wars I and II, when cubistic structures were embellished by the use of florid ornament inspired by the Paris Exposition of 1925 (Art Deco) and later by sleek streamlined ornament that also influenced the Paris Exposition of 1937 ' Art Moderne . Many polvchromed works of Ely Jacques Kahn exemplify Art Deco: the corner-windowed “modernistic” apartment houses of the Grand Concourse in the Bronx and the Majestic Apartments, at Central Park West and 72nd street are Art Moderne.
Style Definition

Both Deco and Moderne use setbacks to reduce building mass and to emphasize verticality. Unlike "Wedding Cake" buildings, their shapes recede from the street gracefully, not in tiers but in gentler and more carefully positioned steps. Limestone is the most common cladding material, with brick facades common in Art Deco.

Prominent architects in the style include Shreve, Lamb & Harmon Associates, Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, and Lawrence Murray Dixon.

In 1925 something else very important happens that would affect the look of skyscrapers—the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris. With this exposition the French government intended to showcase the latest in French modern design, though it was an international exposition, as other countries were invited to open up pavilions exhibiting their modern design. The United States was one of the countries invited to have a pavilion, but the government's response was that the nation had no modern design, so there was no United States pavilion. Ultimately, however, this exposition, des arts décoratifs, from which the term art deco comes, had a tremendous influence on American design. Many Americans attended—architects, builders, even the general public. They either traveled to the fair itself or read books about it. So the exposition eventually had a tremendous impact on the look of the city.

Now before we look at art-deco buildings, we should note that this style is not synonymous with the setback office building. Very often, buildings like the Barclay-Vesey and the Fred French are called art-deco buildings, though technically they are not. They use different types of ornament. Art deco is a style of ornament imported from France after the 1925 exposition that provided an ornamental overlay on office buildings that were built under the 1916 zoning law. So it is important to note that the style is not synonymous with the zoning law but with a type of ornament that was used after 1925 on buildings in New York. The buildings that Americans saw when they attended the Paris exposition were very small scale, like this one, which was built as the Pavilion Bon Marché for the Bon Marché department store in Paris. But they had a highly ornate decorative quality—using, for example, stylized sunbursts, frozen fountains, and zigzag ornaments—and it was this style of ornament, used on both the pavilions and the modern decorative arts shown at the fair, that the Americans brought back with them. 

Andrew Dolkart 

The period termed "art deco" manifested itself roughly between the two world wars, or 1920 to 
1939. Many actually stretch this period back to 1900 and even as far as the late 1950's, but work of this time is generally considered to be more of an influence to the Art Deco style, or having been influenced by the style. As with many other art movements, even work of today is still being influenced by the past. This period of design and style did not just affect architecture, but all of the fine and applied arts as well. Furniture, sculpture, clothing, jewelry and graphic design were all influenced by the Art Deco style.

Common themes

Basically it was a "modernization" of many artistic styles and themes from the past. You can 
easily detect in many examples of Art Deco the influence of Far and Middle Eastern design, Greek 
and Roman themes, and even Egyptian and Mayan influence. Modern elements included echoing machine 
and automobile patterns and 
shapes such as stylized gears and wheels, or natural elements such as sunbursts and flowers. 


Art Deco buildings in Sydney


Mutual Life and Citizens Building - 38-46 Martin Place, Sydney 

Delfin House - 16-18 O'Connell Street, Sydney

Australasian Catholic Assurance - 66 King Street, Sydney 

Challis House - 4 Martin Place,Sydney 

Maritime Services Board - 140 George Street, Sydney 

Berlei House - 230 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills

Commonwealth Bank - 546-548 George Street, Sydney 

Grace Building - 77-79 York Street, Sydney

Bryant House - 80-82 Pitt Street, Sydney 

Grand United Building - 147-153 Castlereagh Street, Sydney 

Australian Provincial Assurance - 53-63 Martin Place, Sydney 

Asbestos House - 65-69 York Street, Sydney

City Mutual Life Assurance Co - 60-66 Hunter Street, Sydney 

Metropolitan Water, Sewerage & Drainage Board - 339-341 Pitt Street, Sydney

British Medical Association - 135-137 Macquarie Street, Sydney 

Coles-Snows - 360-368 Pitt Street, Sydney

Manufacturer's House - 12-14 O'Connell Street, Sydney 

Central Agency- 48-58 Druitt Street, Sydney 

Dorchester House - 149 Macquarie Street, Sydney 

499-501 Kent Street, Sydney

Kyle House - 27-31 Macquarie Place, Sydney 

S Hoffnung & Co - 153-159 Clarence Street, Sydney

Railway House - 19 York Street, Sydney 

Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Ltd - 45-47 York Street, Sydney

David Jones - 65-77 Market Street, Sydney 

Transport House - 99 Macquarie Street, Sydney

50 Darlinghurst Road, Elizabeth Bay 

Feltex House - 261 George Street, Sydney 


Civic Hotel - 386-388 Pitt Street, Sydney

County Clare Inn- 20 Broadway, Chippendale 

Hotel Broadway - 166-170 Broadway, Chippendale

Australian Hotel - 100 Broadway, Chippendale 

Hotel Hollywood - 2 Hunt Street, Surry Hills 

Piccadilly Hotel - 171 Victoria Street, Potts Point 

Criterion Hotel - 19 Park Street, Sydney

Westminster Hotel - 2 Broadway, Chippendale 

Theatres + Cinemas

303 Cleveland Street, Redfern

Orion Theatre - Beamish Street, Campsie 

Minerva Theatre- 30 Orwell Street, Potts Point

Astor Cinema - 166 Glebe Point Road, Glebe

Burland Community Hall - 222 King Street, Newtown 

Industrial and Institutional Buildings

Dental Hospital of Sydney - 2 Chalmers Street, Surry Hills

Westcott-Hazell - 513-519 Wattle Street, Ultimo 

145 Cleveland Street, Chippendale

Parker Pen factory - 157 Cleveland Street, Redfern 

Corner of Saunders and Bank Streets, Pyrmont

63-79 Miller Street, Pyrmont 

Demco factory - 271 Cleveland Street, Redfern 

80 Abercrombie Street, Chippendale 

E G Bishop - 37-45 Murtle Street, Chippendale 

70-72 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills

480 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills