Paris was not chosen as the host for the 2012 Olympic Games, but just as the media images of the London Olympics today are raising the profile of British design across the world, in 1925 the city was able to bring the Art Deco style to a global audience. The ‘Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes’ of 1925 was planned as an international display of the decorative arts and used the same location as 1900′s ‘Exposition Universelle’. For the exhibition, this site in the centre of Paris was landscaped to create axes along which new temporary pavilions were built. In terms of numbers the actual event was a success, drawing in 16 million visitors. A wider audience was reached through books and photographs reproducing the designs and images of the exhibition, thus exposing the world to the modern architectural styles that were on show in Paris.
RIBA curator Valeria Carullo, in a talk last month at the RIBA, discussed the impact of this exhibition and how it ultimately gave the movement its name. The talk was also an opportunity for members of the public to interact with relevant period items from the architectural collections of the RIBA.
Using the same images shown in the talk is the new online exhibition ‘Art Deco Triumphant’. It illustrates some of the daring experiments architects made in 1925 with pavilion buildings and the interior designs which still appeal to viewers now. Images include the Art Deco work of architects like Robert Mallet-Stevens and Victor Baron Horta, to the more boldly Modernist pavilion of Constructivist architect Konstantin Stepanovich Mel’nikov.
Though it shouldn’t take international events like the 1925 exhibition or the Olympics to show everyone the attractiveness and benefits of good design, they are useful reminders of the great work that architects can do when given the chance.