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Architectural Spotlight: Art Deco

The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Historic Preservation define preservation as “the act or process of applying measures necessary to sustain the existing form, integrity, and materials of an historic property.” Trained architectural historians, preservation aficionados, and those involved with cultural resource management apply this process to resources that range from original farmsteads, to modern office buildings and Victorian-era homes. To get a sense of the breadth of preservation efforts around the world, we'll highlight a number of architectural styles over the coming months, so watch for future eblasts on preservation efforts for styles such as mid-century modern, Craftsman, and Colonial. To kick us off, however, enjoy this glance back to the 1920s era of Art Deco!
What is Art Deco?
For those who need a refresher course on the Art Deco architectural style, there is a wide assortment of resources available online. The New York Public Library’s Research Guide provides background on this international style. The library also houses an “Art & Architecture Collection” of primary source materials on Art Deco, including pattern books, design manuals, and catalogues, and some of those items are available digitally!
Art Deco Preservation in the United States: Miami’s Hero
One of the most widely known American Art Deco Preservationists, Barbara Baer Capitman, started her work in the 1970s to save Miami’s South Beach Art Deco hotels and single-family homes. Although these buildings did not have the polished look of today’s South Beach in the 1970s and 1980s, the properties were some of the most architecturally stunning examples of Art Deco in the United States. Her efforts saved many, but not all, of Miami’s treasured Art Deco buildings and gave rise to other organizations that fought for the preservation of similar buildings, both in Miami and across the country.
Saving Art Deco Around the World
Art Deco was truly an international style. It first emerged in France, took hold in the United States, and spread to other parts of the globe. Evidence of this global style still persists, even in surprising places like Mumbai, India, where many of these structures survive (above). Art Deco Mumbai, a non-profit organization, focuses on showcasing Mumbai’s Art Deco heritage, advocates for its conservation, chronicles its history and photo-documents the city’s Art Deco neighborhoods. Best of all, it has a digital repository of its work and the buildings it has helped preserve.  On the other side of the world, both Mexico City’s preservation efforts and Havana’s efforts have been covered in print. (Follow the links to read more.) It is encouraging to see the worldwide efforts to save our built environment and to preserve our global Art Deco heritage.
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