First opened in 1900, the Paris subway, the Métropolitain or Métro for short, reflects the art nouveau style of the time, inspired by natural forms and structures, especially curved lines. Some older Métro stations still have the original grillwork at the subway entrance.
We like art nouveau and appreciate tradition. Traveling around Paris, we ran across these examples:
The newer stations aren’t bad — they simply lack the style of the old.
Window shopping at the Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris was a highlight of our December Christmas market trip.
Built in 1912, the boulevard Haussmann store has an 43-meter-high, art nouveau dome, with a Christmas tree under the dome during the holidays. In the art nouveau style, the balcony railings are made of iron.
The stained glass dome is a work of art and beautiful in its own right.
Puppets move around the base of the Christmas tree.
People flocked to see the holiday windows designed by Marc Jacobs. The theme was “Once upon a Christmas…Before the Clock Strikes Twelve”, featuring a red-headed Lilly doll and Martin the Bear. Children and adults alike loved the displays, as we did. We considered purchasing the Lilly doll, but it was very expensive. (Perhaps we should have expected that for a super-cute Marc Jacobs creation.) Despite the price, if we had a little girl in the family, we’d have bought one.
After World War I, growing industrialization increased the appreciation of symmetry, angles, manufacturing, and new materials such as stainless steel and aluminum — features of art deco. Accordingly, architecture shifted from beaux arts to art deco. We looked at three notable buildings constructed following World War I, and all are in the art deco style.
The Chrysler Building was the tallest building in the world when completed in 1930. It was built and owned by Walter Chrysler, who founded the car manufacturing company that he named after himself. The crown has seven radiating sunbursts clad with stainless steel, topped by a spire. In order to top another building, the spire was secretly assembled in a fire shaft and hoisted to the top and anchored in one and a half hours.
The metal and glass starbursts incorporate triangular windows to form the design, and the starbursts are part of the building structure, instead of stone decorations added to the exteriors of beaux-art buildings.
The lobby has rich, red marble and indirect lighting.
The elevator doors use metal and wood to form designs.
570 Lexington Avenue
The building at 570 Lexington Avenue was the first General Electric Building. GE subsequently relocated to a building at Rockefeller Plaza, so this first GE building is now known by its address. Completed in 1931, 570 Lexington Avenue has 50 stories. The entrance is metal and glass.
A GE clock still hangs on the street corner. The decorations are metal, instead of the stone of the beaux arts style. The red granite walls have parallel grooves for decoration.
The lobby was restored in 1996.
Each elevator entrance is set off with metal on top and grooved stone on the side. The elevator has metal torchieres in the corners.
570 Lexington has a gothic top, representing radio waves.
Empire State Building
Completed in 1931, the Empire State Building was the world’s tallest building for nearly 40 years.
The spire has metal art deco decorations, but this doesn’t look like the King Kong movies I remember!
The tall lobby is dominated by this metal mural that emphasizes the size of the Empire State Building.
Following World War I, the stone-column and robed-statue decorations of beaux art were replaced with metal and glass of art deco.
Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, an autonomous region of Spain. Located next to France on the Mediterranean, Catalonia has a stronger European influence than Madrid and southern Spain have. One area is architecture.
Antonio Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia is the best-known example of Catalan Modernisme architecture. Like its contemporary art nouveau movement, modernisme is based on flowing curves rather than straight lines.
La Sagrada Familia was started 130 years ago and is still under construction. The nativity facade is extremely ornate.
On the opposite side of the church, the passion facade is stark and spare.
Gaudi noticed that the traditional architectural shapes — triangles, squares, and rectangles — don’t appear in nature. Instead, he employed conical shapes found in bones, fingers, and trees.
Gaudi designed this apartment building called Casa Mila, also known as La Pedrera, the stone quarry. Completed in 1910, Casa Mila is on the most fashionable street on Barcelona, and it does not fit in with the neighborhood.
Note the undulating facade.
Gaudi’s Casa Batilo is a few blocks down the same fashionable street. See the use of color and the fanciful roof.