I’m no architectural historian, and when I first moved here I wasn’t initially a fan of the look of the 1937 block homes, including my own. It’s just so plain. But some education has turned me around.
Below, these apartment units are actually more ornamented than our townhouses – note the block glass above the front door.
I do now see the beauty in this style, but even with the block-glass embellishment, this looks too stark, too unlived-in for my taste.
Above are two identical buildings, with and without plants. See what I mean? Actually, don’t all homes look better with plants?
I notice the same effect in bare versus landscaped townhouses, though I’m not pointing them out for obvious reasons. (Nobody wants to see their house or garden cited as a bad example of anything.)
Sorting out International Style, Art Deco, etc.
Elsewhere on Wiki I learned that the International Style emerged in the 1920s and 1930s, the formative decades of modern architecture but with an emphasis more on architectural style, form and aesthetics than the social aspects emphasized in Europe. The most common characteristics of International style buildings are:
rectilinear forms; light, taut plane surfaces that have been completely stripped of applied ornamentation and decoration; open interior spaces; a visually weightless quality engendered by the use of cantilever construction. Glass and steel, in combination with usually less visible reinforced concrete, are the characteristic materials of the construction.
Above, from left, are examples of the International Style in Germany and Stockholm and below, in Rotterdam. Look familiar?
It’s my understanding that the International style is an example of Art Deco design, of which we see examples in Roosevelt Center, where the commercial buildings use Streamline Moderne motifs, including rounded corners, ribbon windows and flat roofs.
Now we’ve probably all heard of Arc Deco, but International Style is a new term and now Streamline Moderne, too? It’s almost too much to sort of. Fortunately, my collaborators on GHI’s Historic Preservation Task Force actually know their architectural history, and they’re filling me in on design details and their significance.
However, if I’m still confused and that’s evident in this post, would the Task Force members please straighten me out?
Photo credits for European buildings.
This additional info came via email from Lawrence Phelps, with these two photos:
Very interested about the architecture. I posted a few photos of a town in New Zealand a few weeks ago named Napier that resembles Old Greenbelt a lot. It is considered Art Deco since it was built around 1932 and has angular ornamentation.
I had pegged Old Greenbelt as Art Moderne. From what I read International style is German and very austere and geometric. Seems to me to be a precursor of the Brutalist movement. Art Deco and later Art Moderne came out of Paris in the 1920s. Art Deco was a shortened version of Art Decoritifs. The architects for OG were Douglas Ellington and Reginald Wadsworth. Ellington studied in Paris at the École des Beaux Arts, where Art Decoritifs (Art Deco) originated.
Here are a few photos of the Art Deco buildings in Napier NZ that resemble Old Greenbelt buildings very closely. (I did plant the canna lilies and roses in front of the apartment photo you showed.) 🙂