Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Art Deco shops

click photo to enlarge
I've written elsewhere in this blog about how, in Britain, the architecture of the 1920s and 1930s was very conservative, noting but not, in the main embracing, the forward-looking developments of Europe and the United States.

This often manifested itself in a style that is sometimes called "stripped classical" with recognisably Greek,  Roman or Renaissance-derived columns, entablatures etc pared down to plainer, un-archaeological forms; a reluctant nod to Modernism. The style known as Art Deco and its synonyms or variants, Moderne and Jazz Moderne and Streamline Modern, also used classical forms in this way, but more enthusiastically and with the introduction of newer and different elements. British cinemas of the 1930s frequently adopted this style, as did quite a few factories and even power stations. On the high street Marks and Spencer's architects used white stone with classical, streamline and even Central American motifs in an attempt to show their modernity. The men's clothing store that was found in most large towns and cities - Burton - also adopted this approach.

On our recent visit to Hull I photographed the main windows of the curved facade of the Burton store at the top of Whitefriargate. This building dates from 1935 and is the work of the store's architect, Harry Wilson. It is faced in a veneer of black marble slabs with tall, narrow window bands featuring attenuated glazing bars. The central windows are given a "classical" emphasis with a pair of pilasters. However, the capitals are, if we are to compare them with anything, stripped down Egyptian! The balconies have iron-work featuring curved bars, not unlike those on the step ventilators of the Art Deco doorway of Hull railway station's hotel. The colour of the paintwork is gold, making the building stand out even more from its much more staid neighbours.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 23mm (46mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6 Shutter Speed: 1/500 sec
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On