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Art Deco Design

The impacts of the First World War extended far beyond the battlefields of Europe and Asia. War efforts consumed vast amounts of raw materials and placed an enormous drain on the industrial capacities of the developed world. Before the war, the grandeur of architecture and design had suspended the world in disbelief. The advent of steel and mass production enabled architects and designers to create what could be described as monuments to human ingenuity. However, the cost in manpower and material of the Great War replaced the boldness of man with pragmatism. Like all things, from devastation comes rebirth. After the war's end, resources were again plentiful. Grandeur once again returned to the drawing board. What today is called the Art Deco period was born in this rebirth of possibility. Throughout the great powers of the world, there was a renewed interest in building great buildings and lavish environs. Because the world had been kept so simple in the previous decade, the 1920s were a period of pure indulgence. Although, the Art Deco movement was truly international, one can certainly contend that the boldness and extreme affluence of America fueled its development and proliferation. Americans refer to these post war years as the "Roaring 20s." As well they should. It was during this decade that America's production power made her the wealthiest society the world has ever known. And, this newfound wealth was certainly lost on indulgence. Some of the greatest examples of Art Deco are purely American. For nearly twenty fifteen years, Americans were engage in gentlemen's contest of building the worlds tallest building. The conclusive winner which was to stand for decades was the most prominent example of Art Deco in history, the Empire State Building. Art Deco was a set of design principles that reflect the period's vision of the future. One need only watch films relic of this era, such as Metropolis, to understand how prolific bold design was on the minds of designers as the time. Geometric shapes, particularly those with four sides, and the repetition thereof are common in Art Deco design. Prominent use of metal and almost anything that shines was placed anywhere a designer intended to draw the eyes. Many of the things that modern society takes for granted were introduced to the general public for the first time after the end of the war. The radio, the automobile, the telephone, even the vacuum cleaner, only made their way into the hands of the general populace after war's end. Development of new building materials, particularly aluminum and nickel, presented new options to designers. These materials are still employed today in home fixtures and furniture. Products ranging from lamps to mounted fixtures and mirrors, still echo the design standard of the era. The advent of aluminum simultaneously stimulated the growth of Art Deco and spurred its demise. Aluminum, originally developed for the growing aircraft industry, paved the way for the Streamline movement, which at first served to augment Art Deco. However, it was not long before it developed into its own complete movement. Unfortunately, history was to repeat itself. The Art Deco era came to an abrupt end when Germany invaded Poland, igniting the Second World War. Unlike the war before it, the Second World War would inflict even greater destruction upon the world. By the time the war ended six years later, the Western world had little interest in grandiose buildings or bold visions of the future. Other areas of the world had a different perspective. In the developing world, former colonies were finding new leases on life and embraced the design styles that made the cities of their former occupiers so extravagant. Art Deco flourished until the 1960s when it, like most things, simply went out of style.