yasmin chopin | ART DECO CITY The World’s Most Beautiful Buildings 
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ART DECO CITY The World’s Most Beautiful Buildings 

Art Deco City p110 Ancient Gods, facade, Banco Popular de Puerto Rico 1100x

ART DECO CITY The World’s Most Beautiful Buildings 

This hardback sits solidly on my desk; the title letters, ART DECO CITY, are debossed in gold and catch the light. Fanning the pages I pause inside the back cover; Arnold Schwartzman, OBE, stands in front of a white painted art deco house smiling in sunglasses. A postcard-perfect scene. I presume it to be Los Angeles the city he has made home for the last forty years. Described variously as a film director, graphic designer, author, lecturer and artist it is his skill in photography that is showcased in this publication. London-born and in his eighties now (b.1936) Schwartzman has travelled widely during a career spanning sixty years. He has worked with celebrities such as The Beatles and Elizabeth Taylor and on high profile projects such as the 1984 Olympic Games where he was Director of Design. All this and we now have an edited collection of his photographs. Take confidence in the artistic eye of this man as he directs us on an aesthetically pleasing journey, settle in your armchair and follow the architecture of an all too brief period in time:

‘So please allow me to… share the finer details of what I consider to be among the world’s most beautiful Art Deco buildings.’ (Schwartzman 2018)

Art Deco City p164-165 United Shoe Machinery Corporation Building 1100x

Turn the pages for inside and outside images; colourful mosaics, deeply carved stone. They are all fascinating and aptly represent the style, a style utterly distinguishable from anything else before or after. Art Deco design, at its peak in the 1930s, pervaded all aspects of twentieth century living and Schwartzman’s photographs include domestic and commercial premises: front doors, leaded glass windows and marble bathrooms; hotel signage, inspirational frescoes and tiled facades.

This is a super book to buy for friends with large coffee tables. It’s ideal for design enthusiasts (architecture and graphic design in particular), and the perfect present for armchair travellers.

ART DECO CITY, by Arnold Schwartzman, is published by Palazzo Editions, 15 November 2018, Hardback £30, 224 pages, 400 full-colour illustrations. ISBN 9781786750419.

Architects with monied clients have done a magnificent job in drawing attention to the scale of a monumental building by making the motifs intelligible through foreshortening. However, looking at some of the photographs it is regrettable that a significant proportion of decorative architecture is lost to the person on the street, because it’s so high up you need to be in a helicopter to appreciate it. When I see these displays of ostentation I think of the loftiness of religious buildings and the wealth that was and is still spent to create a similar sense of awe (the Sagrada Família in Barcelona is an ongoing development that employs great attention to the smallest details which many people will never see). 

Art Deco peaked in the 1930s and if it weren’t for the Second World War this style may well have continued for many more decades. Perhaps it’s a time for a resurgence.

Credit: All images courtesy of Arnold Schwartzman and Palazzo, and my thanks to Samantha Evans for sending me a copy of the book to review.