Art Deco, which tends towards straight lines and geometric patterns, is widely represented in Lyon. Iconic buildings such as the Le Barioz building, the Palais de Flore or the former Citroën garage are around the city. Here’s a quick overview of this month’s most popular buildings before we get to the more obscure buildings soon.
Reluctant to embrace Art Nouveau in the late 19th century, Lyon eagerly embraced Art Deco a few decades later. Examples of Art Deco buildings, which are widespread in the city, can be found in all areas of Lyon. The award certainly goes to the 6th arrondissement, which has many buildings erected in this style.
The emergence of Art Deco
Art Deco is an abbreviation of “Decorative Arts”. It covers both architecture and interior design. The eclectic style, with its bold geometric shapes, is a counterpoint to Art Nouveau, with its sometimes exuberant curves and scrolls. Far from an artistic revolution, it is a progressive evolution between the two styles. The straight and elegant lines of Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Scotland or Otto Wagner of the Vienna Secession in Austria already herald the geometrizing of forms from the beginning of the 20th century. In both cases, ornaments are made using iron, vegetable motifs, bas-reliefs, sculptures, etc. occupies an important place.
The emergence of the Art Deco style is generally associated with the aftermath of the First World War, but its beginnings can be felt as early as the 1910s. The Kateland building in Vaise (see next issue) is a good example. . Art Deco flourished in the 1920s. 1925 was a pivotal year for the Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Paris, which coincidentally gave it its name. It disappeared in the late 1930s with the Second World War.
An emblematic Art Deco building with domes over terraces, christened by the Lyonnais as the “English Helmets”: the Palais de Flore. Built in 1930 by Stéphane architect Clément Laval, this building was at the time the tallest building in France at forty meters and eleven floors. It is built on a metal structure with non-load-bearing hollow brick walls. Its location at the crossroads was favorable for a vertical composition reinforced by three angles. The building got its name from the ancient god Flore, the protector of the plant world.
The Le Barioz building (1929-1932) on the Quai Sarrail is one of the city’s finest Art Deco gems. An atypical example in Lyon, architects Louis and Charles Donneaud combine the reinforced cement of the four pilasters and the pediment with the red bricks of the window sills. This singular combination gives the building a dizzying momentum reminiscent of American skyscrapers. The building is covered with a half-dome and a pediment with two faces, each seventy meters high. These silk works of Chorel give the building commissioned by Barioz a unique decorative aspect that can be seen from afar. Portraits of the Barioz couple, statues for some, represented Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, and Mercury, the god of commerce and travel.
The mythical Citroën garage
Now an office building, the former Citroën garage is an unmissable symbol of the city. Completed in 1932, this concrete and glass giant borrows from the Art Deco codes and functional architecture of the era. According to an advertisement at the time, the garage was “the world’s largest gas station”. With its 6,000 m2 glazed, eighteen-meter-high monumental hall, 350-meter vehicular access ramps and 130-meter length, the building is as big as six stacked football fields. Built by the architect Maurice-Jacques Ravazé, its ironwork was designed by the famous designer and architect Jean Prouvé.
Designed by Charles Mason between 1929 and 1936, its hexagonal windows, reinforced concrete roof, and the geometric patterns of the typography invoke the vocabulary of Art Deco.
Lalande telephone exchange
Opposite the Palais de Flore, this typical Art Deco building was built by Charles Mason in the late 1920s. Its facade is decorated with numerous bas-reliefs with plant and organic motifs.
Ampere telephone exchange
We also owe this telephone exchange built in 1926 to Charles Mason. Its decoration with hexagonal patterns is characteristic.
Axis of the Pathe cinema
Well known to the people of Lyon, the Pathe-Bellecour cinema boasts a thirty-three meter high Art Deco tower topped by the brand’s emblematic rooster. In 1932, Pathe commissioned architect Eugène Chirie to build a 1,600-seat cinema on the site of the former Kursaal casino. It was completely redesigned in the 1990s, but the facade was preserved.
We must place Roux-Spitz the Grande Poste, Antonin-Poncet. Built between 1935 and 1938, the building is more representative of 1930s architecture than Art Deco architecture. Only the patterned facade of three vertical bands on the upper floor of the building illuminates, as well as several beautiful sculptures and bas-reliefs.
This former village hall was also built from 1924 to 1929 by Michel Roux-Spitz, a student of Tony Garnier. The glass panels of the facade are decorated with large cloisters (open walls) painted in a slightly yellow color. Roux-Spitz also built what is now The Théâtre des Jeunes Années in Vaise in a similar style.
Tony Garnier (1869-1948) and the decorative arts
The famous architect from Lyon, known for his industrial city project, established a fruitful collaboration with the then mayor Edouard Herriot. Tony Garnier oversaw four major projects in particular – the slaughterhouses of La Mouche, the Grange-Blanche hospital, the Gerland municipal stadium and the United States area – which culminated in the height of decorative arts in the 1920s and 1930s.
In 1925, a significant year for Decorative Arts, he participated in the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts held in Paris. Chosen for the construction of the Lyon-Saint-Etienne pavilion, he proposed for his assembly building a building already visible in the industrial city, as well as for the Labor Exchange project in Lyon. It takes the form of a great room surmounted by a three-level octagonal dome, inspired by the Art Deco dome found in the chapel of the Édouard-Herriot hospital, built by his student and collaborator Louis Thomas. .
Tony Garnier often surrounded himself with painters and decorators (Jean-Baptiste Larrivé, Claudius Linossier, etc.) and said in 1917 at the Cité Industrielle: “If our structure remains simple, without ornament, without mould, everywhere bare, we we can destroy it. in all forms of decorative arts”.
However, it is difficult to associate it with the Art Deco movement, even though some buildings, such as the Édouard-Herriot hospital (built from 1913 to 1933), use its codes. The buildings of the Cité Tony-Garnier in the 8th arrondissement (despite shuttered windows and porthole windows) are more modern architecture than Art Deco in their restraint.
The interwar period was marked by artistic enthusiasm. In Weimar, Gropius founded the Bauhaus in 1919, while the International Style, or Modern Movement, also asserted itself, bringing together architects from Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and the Dutch De Stijl group. All these actions affect each other. Art Deco, however, has its own key features. A guided tour of Lyon to highlight them.
• Rejection of right angles
Art Deco corner buildings rarely have right angles. They are often rounded or cut. These “bow” angles are reminiscent of the transatlantic liners of the 1920s, when Normandie was enjoying its golden age as a true Art Deco floating palace.
• Trim the sides
Windows, doors and bas-reliefs often use curved sides.
Bow windows (projection windows, sometimes called oriels) are not typical for Art Deco. They appeared with Art Nouveau at the end of the 19th century. But Art Deco made extensive use of it, mostly using polygonal shapes.
• Various materials
Reinforced concrete was often used in Art Deco constructions, but we also find cut stone or brick.
Decoration, both interior and exterior, is an important feature of Art Deco. This is one of the main differences that distinguish it from other accompanying movements such as the Bauhaus and the more international style, or the Modern Movement, which advocated an architecture without ornamentation and favored bare, white facades.
• Iron works
Doors, bars, balconies and railings often require delicate and sometimes intricate ironwork.
• Spiral and floral patterns
The wave and spiral are recurring motifs in Art Deco. Patterns of flowers and fruits are also common. Unlike Art Nouveau, patterns are generally stylized and prefer geometric shapes.
• Porthole windows
We find these round, hexagonal or octagonal windows first on the courtyard side, and then on the street side. They also refer to the large ocean liners that were in vogue in the 1920s.
The forehead is coming back. At the beginning of the period, it is still slightly rounded, it quickly becomes geometric, dividing into three parts.