First, and most obviously, because Art Deco dates from les Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs, April to October 1925. Yet the term Art Deco is not coined until 1960. Art Deco was an exhibition, not a school. Thus it has become conflated with the contemporary and formal architectural schools of, say, The Bauhaus in Germany and De Stijl in the Netherlands.
Also since we are talking about the city of Toronto, we could not be farther away from the European capitals where Art Deco was practiced.
Finally, Art Deco was never about architecture. Art Deco is about household decoration. The primary Art Deco object is a cocktail shaker. In an Art Deco cocktail cabinet.
Then there is the practical business that in the period 1914 to 1939 the world was:
- Twice at war
- In a recession
- Traveling by steamer
The totality of these conflated realities is that there were almost no chances for wealthy American property developers to:
- Become exposed to the ideas of Art Deco
- Find expert architects to design Art Deco skyscrapers
- Have sufficient funds in the bank to build Art Deco skyscrapers
- Have a sufficient labor force to mobilize to build their chic and modern tributes to their own inner Croesus
Thus it is with confidence I state that your favorite Art Deco building might be Art Moderne. It might even be Streamline Moderne. But it is NOT Art Deco.
Let us use this humble borough war memorial to function as our Rosetta Stone and provide the codex of Art-Streamline-Deco-Moderne.
- Clean lines
- A trapezoid shape
- Corners without fillet or radius curve
- Period font
- Only one obscure glyph - the memorial wreath
- Korean War -1950s
And directly across the street is this superb Streamline Moderne masterpiece - Toronto East General Hospital, circa 1949...
Sadly, here is a cute little Art Moderne cottage right next door to the hospital. With a callous application of siding and brick veneer her perfect lines have been completely destroyed...
Finally, here is a real Art Deco building, Hamilton's 1930 Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo passenger train station...
copyleft Wikimedia Commons
And finally, another look at that beautiful Art Deco building that has been destroyed in the 21st century