Prague Art Deco Architecture
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The French Connection
It should come as no surprise that “Arts Decoratifs” should begin in Paris and be recognised as an individual art form to be known as “Art Deco” in 1925. Of course the style of Decorative Art had been around for at least 10 years already but with Art Nouveau coming to an end and Cubism not really accepting the baton, Art Deco took a little time to mature. Note that I now run a Prague Architecture Tour for people who want to really get into who built this city and why.
Art Deco was not a protest style. It did not begin with a breakaway from an existing art form. Instead it took the harmony of Art Nouveau and combined it with the geometric nature of Cubism. However, gone was the “spiritual” aspect of Cubism and also gone was the “organic decorative” aspect of Art Nouveau. Added to the mix was the latest popular materials like “stainless steel” and “plastic”. In the early days of Art Deco, indeed up to it’s formal launch in 1925 it had embraced the Art Nouveau style of including bright colours (Palac Akropolis is pictured). It was all about luxury. Very expensive materials were combined with the best craftsmanship to produce stunning work. Furniture included ivory and silver inlays, jewellery used diamonds with platinum, jade, and other precious materials.
The 1930s saw it all change. Actually the term “Decorative Art” hardly applies because from the late 1920s protagonists of Prague Art Deco fought for the complete absence of decoration and chose instead to let the natural features of the piece come through. Hardly surprising then that black and white combined with smooth curves became a signature of this era.
The plain sleek curving, the nautical and industrial aspects associated with Art Deco all come after 1930. Rounded corner glass, flat roofs, glass brick walls and porthole windows are actually called Late Art Deco or specifically “Streamline Moderne” or “Art Moderne”. Prague Art Deco is of the earlier form so we don’t have any examples of the nautical versions but curved glass caught on here and glass bricks continued to be used well into the 1980s.
Places to See Art Deco
In central Prague there’s almost no Art Deco. From Republic Square if you walk along Na Porici then you’ll come to a crossroads and over on your left is the Hotel Imperial. Inside here is one of my favourite cafes in the city and the whole building was renovated to it’s original Art Deco style. Further back along that street is the La Republica restaurant which also retains its Art Deco post-1930 balcony features.
The next era – BRUTALISM