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21 Oct 2023

What is Art Deco?

Streamline Moderne
Architecture in the interwar years

Do you like cantilevered simplicity or Jazz Age geometrics?
Do you "ooh" every time you drive past The Hoover Factory?
Do you "wow" when you see Senate House?
Do you yearn to live in a house with interiors to rival Eltham Palace?

We’ve all got a different take on "Art Deco" because the term has become a catch-all for many buildings constructed between the mid-1920s and WW2; a time of change when architects were keen to move away from the fussy embellishments and dusty drapery of previous decades.
You might be surprised to learn that he term "Art Deco" was not coined until 1968 when Bevis Hillier referred to this period as a truncation of '
Les Arts Decoratifs' on display at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts that took place in Paris, back in 1925. 
But the term is a bit misleading, especially in regard to architecture, as most of the buildings that carry the tag are lacking in any exterior decoration at all, with most displaying simplicity of line and pared-down geometric ornamentation here and there. One could argue that the only style that truly fits the description of Art Deco is the Egyptian temple revival, yet, these days, the term also covers tiled factory façades, temples to industry, Portland stone banks, minimalist shop fronts, ocean liner office blocks and impressive department stores.

To see the diversity of this over-arching term, join me on one of my ArtDeco/1930s walking tours or online talks. I have pounded London's streets and discovered many unsung and lesser-known gems and I'd love to share some of the unsung masterpieces with you as there's so much more to see than the Brentford factories and the Daily Express building. 
You can be sure that, on every one of my routes, whether in person or online, you will find something new, and/or a building that gives you that 'wow' moment. 

Here's my hand-drawn map of some of the central London Art Deco routes I offer:

Find out more about these and other Art Deco walks and talks here

"Enjoyed all the 6 Art deco walks I have done so far and opened my eyes to the 30s style of architecture which [turns out to be] more varied than I thought. Looking forward to doing more walks in the future." More customer reviews and feedback here

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The Holloway tour includes this marvellous neon diver sign which is available as cards and prints at various sizes on my Etsy site where you'll also find a daytime version and other ArtDeco buildings that feature on my walks, such as the Carreras factory at Mornington Crescent and The Carlton Cinema in Essex Rd.