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Tips and Guides

Design 101: What is Art Deco?

This popular style is making a comeback—discover its origins

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Photography: Ocs Alvarez/ACME Visual Productions (Main Photo)

Real Living’s fourth RL Space will be launching in a few days, and its theme is Art Deco, to match the style of its venue, The Sapphire Bloc. This style is currently having a renaissance; but before you apply it to your home, here’s a quick backgrounder on it.

Art Deco is short for Arts Decoratifs, a visual arts movement that originated in a French design exposition in 1925. The movement covers art, architecture, product and graphic design, and even jewelry and fashion.

Art Deco was most popular from the 1920s to the 1930s (though in the Philippines, its popularity extended to the early 1950s), and used simple, stylized forms, linear motifs, zig-zags, lightning bolts, and geometrical patterns—it was meant to represent the era’s machine age, and an increasingly liberal outlook in life. The style was also essentially a reaction to its predecessor, the heavily ornamented Art Nouveau, and a precursor to mid-century Modernism.

Popular Art Deco buildings in the Philippines include The Capitol Theater by Juan Nakpil, the First United Building by Andres Luna de San Pedro, and the Far Eastern University main building by Pablo Antonio. Arguably, the most famous Art Deco structure in Manila is the Manila Metropolitan Theater, which is currently undergoing restoration.

Early Art Deco motifs of scrolls and lightning bolts on a wall sconce at the First United Building in Escolta.

The First United Building’s staircase railing sports the same Art Deco style.

The Capitol Theater along Escolta by Juan Nakpil has Art Deco friezes by Italian sculptor Francesco Riccardo Monti on its exterior.

The Metropolitan Theater is an Art Deco masterpiece by Juan Arellano. Inside, you can find murals by Fernando Amorsolo, sculptures by Isabelo Tampingco, and uses a lot of Filipino motifs done in Art Deco style.

This apartment of Art Deco enthusiast Cheek Fadriquela is a wonderful contemporary interpretation of the style. 

Click here to see more photos and view the complete home tour.

Interior designer Kristine Neri-Magturo uses exaggerated geometric patterns (typical to high Art Deco) on the wall of a one-bedroom unit at RL Space.

RL Space 2016 will be open to the public from October 1 to 2, at The Sapphire Bloc, Ortigas Center, Pasig City. To learn more about RL Space, click here.

First United Building photo by Pablo Bustamante via The Filipinas Blog.

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