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Art Deco in
France

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Morcenx cinema building

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art deco in france
art deco in a french model town
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art deco in france

France was in the vanguard of Art Deco design, peaking in the 1925 Exposition des arts décoratifs et industriels exhibition in Paris.

Lalique tower at the Paris Expo des arts decoratifs et industriels.

Lalique tower at night during the Paris Expo des arts decoratifs et industriels.
The Lalique tower at the Paris Expo des arts decoratifs et industriels
during the day and at night

This had French displays and pavilions on the left bank of the Seine and foreign pavilions on the right bank. The French displays included the Lalique Tower, that was lit at night, and the Pavillion de l’Esprit Nouveau, designed by architect Le Corbusier and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret. This pavilion included a modular show apartment, part of a proposed large-scale housing project for central Paris, but never built. On the internal walls hung pictorial works by contemporary painters, Amedee Ozenfant, Juan Gris and Fernand Leger, Pablo Picasso and Le Corbusier.


3:57 minute video giving a 3D presentation of Le Corbusier’s Pavilion de l’Esprit Nouveau

During the early twentieth century, both the Côte d’Azur in the south-east of France, and the Atlantic coast became increasingly attractive places for taking the waters and to holiday. There was much building in both regions.

On the Atlantic coast, the coastal strip from Spain to Bordeaux was transformed from a desolate temperate desert to a vibrant chain of resorts, often enhanced by many Art Deco buildings. After World War One, when Germany had destroyed many buildings, other opportunities were provided for French architects and builders to construct in the new style.

3
The casino at Biarritz

Maison communale at Saint-Symphorien, Gironde
Maison communale at Saint-Symphorien, Gironde

The Splendid hotel, on the banks of the River Adour at Dax, Les Landes
The Splendid hotel, on the banks of the River Adour at Dax, Les Landes

Seafront apartment and thalassotherapy building by Robert Mallet-Stevens, Saint Jean de Luz
Seafront apartment and thalassotherapy building
by Robert Mallet-Stevens, Saint Jean de Luz Source: unknown

art deco in a french model town

One small town, Morcenx, began as merely a station in 1854 when the railway was built to connect Bordeaux in the north of Aquitaine to Dax, further south. The railway passed to the north and east of the original Morcenx - Morcenx Bourg. The new town of Morcenx became a large junction for freight - shipping out wood from the forests, and wood products such as fibre board, from the nearby factories.

The expanding Morcenx was built on a model town layout, its design incorporating different characteristics of medieval bastide towns: the railway line like an extended border, a big square, shade by trained plane trees, situated opposite the station with an axis of symmetry perpendicular to the railway line, and punctuated at its other end by a church. Situated around this axis, the urban Republican complex also contributes to embellishing the heart of this town. In response to a real need, the municipal buildings were built in 1936 to architect Franck Bonnefous, with decorations added by sculptor Lucien Danglade.

Municipal buildings included the town hall, or mairie [1], the post office - La Poste [2], cinema [3], an assembly and concert hall - le Centre Jean Jaures [4], labour and trade union offices [5], a music school [6], tax offices [7], and municipal offices[8] .

Plan of Morcenx town centre

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Plan of Morcenx town centre
[Key to numbered items in text above.]

The mairie at Morcenx, Les Landes
The mairie at Morcenx, Les Landes [1]

La Poste - the post office, Morcenx
La Poste - the post office, Morcenx [2]

Morcenx cinema building
Morcenx cinema building [3]

cinema central panel enlarged to show relief sculture - duck hunting and fishing
cinema central panel enlarged to show relief sculture - duck hunting and fishing

cinema outer panels enlarged to show relief sculture - resin collection and logging
cinema outer panels enlarged to show
relief sculture - resin collection and logging

Centre Jean Jaures at Morcenx
Centre Jean Jaures at Morcenx [4]

Marker at abelard.org

The two main architectural trends of Art Deco are examined further in Art deco - sybaritic trend and Art deco - revolutionary trend.

end notes

  1. A necklace by René LaliqueRené Lalique was a high quality and creative decorator, jeweller and glass worker, whose work encompassed both Art Nouveau and Art Deco. Lalique developed the modern style of jewellry, using crystal, coloured glass, lower valued jewel stones, stained glass, enamel and a characteristic gold framework. Lalique was also known for his perfume bottles, vases and other glass items. The Lalique website shows many other examples of Lalique’s work.

  2. Le Corbusier is the pseudonym of Charles-Edouard Jeanneret. Le Corbusier was an adaptation of his maternal grandfather’s surname: Lecorbésier.

  3. French town centres, when they are built from scratch rather than evolving piecemeal, are highly organised and laid out with much symmetry. (This can also be seen in French chateaux and palaces, such as Versailles. Such a tradition extends back centuries to the construction of fortified bastide towns.) There is a great tendency to label the outside of public buildings with their function, whether hotel, mairie, la Poste, école....

    Jean de Brunhoff (later continued by his son, Laurent) wrote a series of childrens books whose main character was Babar the Elephant. When Babar became King of the Elephants, he built a model town, Celesteville. Note, in the illustartion below, the labelled buildings and the tidy symmetry of Celestville.
Celestville, the model town built by Babar the Elephant.
Celestville, the model town built by Babar the Elephant

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