Estonian-born American architect Louis Kahn once said “Architecture is the reaching out for the truth”. Well architectural truth-seekers will find much to discover in this trio of Arnold Schwartzman‘s beautiful photographic books exploring Art Deco and Arts and Crafts.
You do not need to be an expert in architecture to recognise and enjoy the familiar hallmarks of Art Deco around us to this day. But what Schwartman does is to widen our appreciation of the design by sharing the fruits of his travels over 6 decades around the world. He offers readers a deep dive into Deco that reaches past the highly familiar to give us a sense of how its style transforms according to its location. “My passion for the Art Deco style probably stems from the fact that I was born in that glorious era” is his self-deprecating take on what clearly is a labour of love for Schwartzman.
And then he extends his architectural gaze to explore the earlier movement of Arts and Crafts with equally impressive, compelling results. From gates to stained glass, from wallpapers to ceramic tiles, in schools, theatres, public houses and private residences, Schwartzman’s lens captures the influence of the turn-of-the-century design movement across the UK, Europe and North America.
Art Deco City: The Worlds Most Beautiful Buildings
Art Deco City doesn’t just celebrate the usual examples of Art Deco architecture which grace many publications, this book revels in showcasing the unsung buildings from all corners of the globe . Examples of the usual places which are famed for their impressive Art Deco structures, such as the Chrysler Building in New York and Daily Express building in London, are included (and rightly so), however Schwartzman delves deeper with rarely-appreciated Art Deco architecture from cities in Denmark, Portugal and Australia to name a few. These countries aren’t the usual places which instantly spring to mind as having prime examples of buildings from the era, which makes this publication a rich detailed resource rather than just a quick journey across all of the usual architectural gems from the era.
This hardback book presents over four hundred plus of Schwartzman’s own photographs from his extensive travels taken over many years and are categorised under Europe, Australia and the Americas. These photos not only portray the masterpieces in all their full glory, a fair few of those included home in on the detail, allowing the reader to experience the incredible intricate Art Deco designs in close-up detail. From glittering bronze relief panels, to dynamic sculptures, it feels that no Art Deco stone detail has been left unturned.
Having such a fascinating collection of buildings from across the world showcases the diverse interpretation of the Art Deco style from country to country. Although many share a similar language, there are plenty of photos within the book which demonstrate that Art Deco architecture wasn’t confined to one aesthetic and architects and designers of the age were influenced by a rich and varied source of contemporary and historical design.
Schwartzman’s Art Deco City is a lovingly-curated, personal collection of photos, which takes you on a journey of discovery of Art Deco design and architecture that the world has to offer.
Miami Art Deco
Miami Art Deco is the latest book in Schwartzman’s photographic opus to Art Deco and sees him revisit the famous pastel places of Miami, which were included in the earlier book Art Deco City. This glossy paperback allows Schwartzman to showcase the Art Deco masterpieces, mainly hotels, of Miami from the 1920s to 1940s in greater depth. Presented next to recent photos are reproductions of contemporary postcards, many designed by hotels as a form of advertising, which not only act to compare how the buildings were originally decorated , but also offer a humorous insight into the artistic licence taken in how the establishments were presented.
As always with Schwartzman’s books, the joy is in the detail of the architecture and this study is no different. Divided into chapters such as the facades, lighting and murals, the photos place a spotlight on the incredible craftsmanship and artistry which went into designing these Art Deco sensations.
What really delights is that this book isn’t just documenting lost buildings from the golden age of Art Deco, it is a homage to what has been saved from changes of taste and demolition and which still exist, repaired and preserved giving Miami such a rich Art Deco heritage.
Another must-have book on the streamlined shelf of any Art Deco lover’s library.
Arts & Crafts: From William Morris to Frank Lloyd Wright
Schwartzman turns his attentions to the architecture of the late 19th century with Arts & Crafts: From William Morris to Frank Lloyd Wright. Born from the desire to return to a pre-industrialisation era, groups such as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood which included the likes of William Morris and William Holman Hunt, spearheaded the Arts and Crafts movement with a focus on nature-based design and old-fashioned craftsmanship in all that they created and designed.
The sheer volume of buildings featured in this beautifully-curated hardback book which are from the UK, most are interestingly in London, is evidence that Britain was the leader in the Arts and Crafts movement. However Schwartzman has also included outstanding examples from America and Europe, which showcases how architects and designers in other countries were influenced by works of such architects as Philip Webb, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Charles Voysey to name a few.
Never one to shy away from the detail, Schwartzman again provides a plethora of his own photos, many of which highlight the intricate detail of the craftsmanship involved in designing the simplest of elements, from door handles to clocks and stained glass. These often feature motifs of animals, flowers and nature which epitomise the Arts and Crafts movement.
It’s hard for a book that features imagery of such exceptional examples of Arts and Crafts not to delight lovers of architecture and design from this period. However what elevates Schwartzman’s work is the level of detail and obvious love which he has in visiting and documenting these iconic buildings. A joy that you can’t help but share.