Streamline Moderne


Art Moderne or Streamline Moderne.

In the period between the two World Wars, and as the Great Depression of the 1930s progressed, Americans saw a new expression of Art Deco—i.e., streamlining. Streamline Moderne co-incides with Art Deco but has a smoothly curved aesthetics; spare, horizontal ‘speed lines’; and careful symmetry, an aesthetic promoted by commercial/industrial artist Norman Bel Geddes in his book ‘Horizons’ (1932). The tight control, ornate decoration and bold colors of Art Deco were replaced by sleek forms, neutral and pastel colors and metallic accents; new materials like Bakelite plastic, Vitrolite opaque glass and Formica, as well as technical materials like engine-turned and polished aluminum, brushed stainless steel and glossy enamel, were favored. The Streamline Moderne style found widespread popularity after being highlighted at the 1933-'34 Century of Progress [Chicago World's Fair] in the United States.

Designers, under this influence, were quick to ultra-modernize and streamline the designs of an array of of everyday objects, thereby impacting the daily lives of the consumer as well as those of all countries aspiring to the American lifestyle. Manufacturers of clocks, radios, telephones, cars, furniture, and many other household appliances embraced the concept.

In architecture Streamline Moderne was employed most often in buildings related to transportation and movement, such as bus and train stations, airport terminals, roadside cafes and port buildings. It had characteristics common with the Modern Movement, including a horizontal orientation, rounded corners, the use of glass brick walls or porthole windows, flat roofs, chrome-plated hardware, and horizontal grooves or lines in the walls. Buildings were rendered white or in subdued pastel colors.

In South Africa the most ubiqitous expression of this style are in buildings associated with travel and leisure of the time – wayside cafés, petrol stations and hotels to be found in the many rural towns that serviced the new form of transport and its travelers – road travel by automobile. The style was, hardly surprisingly, de rigueur for the automotive sales rooms of that time so as to resonate with the modernity of the streamlining of the automobiles on show.

[See By J Mc Court from December 2012 issue of Hemmings Classic Car Art Deco and the automobile; Wikipedia]

Buildings on this website in Streamline Moderne style

CW Champion Building: c1930. Bloemfontein, Free State
Hoek's Garage: c1940. Swellendam, Western Cape