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Art Nouveau Architecture – A New Freedom For Art

Art Nouveau Architecture(1890-1914) is an international style of art, architecture and applied arts. It encompassed all areas of design – architecture, graphic design, fine arts, industrial design, furniture design, etc.

Art Nouveau is a French term which means New Art.

The style was a reaction against machine. It was a reaction against academic art, eclecticism, and also historicism, but did not reject new material techniques as Arts and Crafts Movement did.

It is characterized by flowing forms and lines, organic elements, material contrasts and often followed asymmetrical shapes. In addition, use of wrought iron glass and ceramics using contemporary technology marks the main element in Art Nouveau architecture.

Main Features of Art Nouveau Architecture

  • Sense of dynamism and movement
  • Asymmetrical shapes
  • Organic and flowing forms, natural forms such as sinuous curves of plants and flowers.
  • Articulating Modernity
  • Symbolism
  • Undulating Lines
  • Fluid, curved forms with a whiplash effect
  • Material contrasts
  • Use of modern materials – Glass (Curved glass, Stained glass), Exposed Iron, Ceramics and concrete
  • Mosaics
  • Japanese Motifs

Examples of Art Nouveau Architecture

1. Maison Coilliot

Image source: en.wikipedia.org
  • BuildingMaison Coilliot
  • Function/Use: House
  • Location: Lille, France
  • Date of construction: 1898 – 1900
  • Architect: Hector Guimard
  • Key Features: Asymmetrical, Material contrasts
  • Materials Used: Bricks, Cut stone, Wrought Iron, Ceramic, Enameled lava, and Wood.
  • Structure: The building has two facades – one a street façade that aligns with the neighboring buildings and the other – a recessed façade that stands at an angle. These two facades are connected by balconies on the upper floors.
  • Façade: The façade is a typical example of Art Nouveau Architecture. Besides being asymmetrical, the front exterior exhibits a sense of dynamism and movement with interning materials of Wrought Iron, Ceramic, Enameled Lava, and wood. Also, the façade serves a dual purpose – decorating the front of the house and also advertising the owner’s ceramic business.
    • The arches on the ground floor which serve as entrances vary in scale -larger ones to the shop and the smaller ones to the apartments above the storefront. Additionally, an organic curve is placed that matches the arch of the unique transom window directly above the door.
    • Green tiles of enameled lava flank the street façade, whose pediment is surmounted by a wooden roof.

2. Old England Building

Image source: en.wikipedia.org
  • Building: Old England Building
  • Function/Use: Previously a departmental store, Now a museum of musical instruments
  • Location: Brussels, Belgium
  • Date of construction: 1898-99
  • Architect: Paul Saintenoy
  • Key Features: Central Oriel Bay, Crown of the façade.
  • Materials Used: girded steel and glass, reinforced concrete
  • Structure: The building was a departmental store previously, whereas now it houses the Museum of musical instruments.
  • Façade: The façade is built with a steel superstructure. Distinct Art Nouveau features mark the aesthetics of the building – a protruding central oriel bay that is supported by metal brackets and a crown with an arch-shaped attic. The metalwork supporting the glass is extremely delicate, sinuous, and organic.

3. Hôtel Tassel

Image source: airtransat.com
  • Building: Hôtel Tassel
  • Function/Use: Town House
  • Location: Brussels, Belgium
  • Date of construction: 1892-1893
  • Architect: Victor Horta
  • Key Features: glass art windows, columns with organic tendrils
  • Materials Used: Stone, Iron, Glass
  • Structure: The building is generally considered as the first Art Nouveau structure with its highly innovative plan, material contrasts, as well as decoration.
  • Façade: the exterior of the building is designed to be smooth and have a sense of fluidity. The façade has a central arch-shaped window and columns projecting above the entrance door. The window is not only provided with beautiful art glass windows but also above a steel beam with exposed rivets and the columns with organic tendrils on both edges resting on the base. The balcony on the upper floor is decorated with wrought-iron which is inspired by nature – particularly the curving stems of plants and flowers. Exposed rivets and framing methods, such as large brackets around the doors and windows create a sense of unity within the architecture

4. Castel Béranger

Image source: frenchmoments.eu

Image source: wikipedia.org

  • Building: frenchmoments. eu
  • Function/Use: Residential building(36 apartments)
  • Location: 16th arrondissement, Paris
  • Date of construction: 1895 – 1898
  • Architect: Hector Guimard.
  • Key Features: Multiple materials and forms, Ornamentation
  • Materials Used: Stone, Brick, Glass, Concrete, Steel
  • Structure: The residential building holds thirty-six apartments and is the first Art Nouveau apartment building in Paris. Architectural historian and critic Simon Texier wrote: “The Art Nouveau had as its characteristic trait a naturalist approach, which made a building or a simple object into a work which was at the same time complex, in motion, and unified by its lines.” Architect Guimard has designed the building with multiple forms, materials, colors as well as decorations.
  • Façade: The ornamentation in the façade is abundant with its diverse nature and careful design, but not overwhelming. One interesting feature of the windows rising along the staircase is that they are crowned by brick arches and the window glass presents distinct whimsical line art forms.
    • The wrought iron balconies with exposed rivets, figurative forms organic shapes, and the stonework underneath them with corbels – altogether present a remarkable design that is not seen in the classical styles of architecture.

5. Casa Batlló

Art Nouveau
Image source: flickr.com
  • Building: Casa Batlló
  • Function/Use: House
  • Location: Barcelona, Spain
  • Date of construction: 1904-1906
  • Architect: Antoni Gaudí
  • Key Features: Undulating mosaic patterns in façade
  • Materials Used: Stone, metal, wood, mosaic, sandstone
  • Structure: The façade and interior design is a rework of an already existing building by architect Antoni Gaudi
  • Façade: The façade is a breathtaking, undulating mosaic of broken ceramic tiles punctuated with void openings and concluding with a rolling roof. Other features include –
    •  The wall of the rooftop is irregular like the ridge of a mountain without a single-level surface. Mosaic patterns cover the periphery of the roof and the tower.
    • The gold letters on the rooftop tower
    • Wrought Iron balconies with spiral trimming
    • Bay windows and undulations of the walls.
    • Sandstone entrance

6. Cauchie House

Art Nouveau
Image source: nocturnes. brussels
  • Building: Cauchie House, Brussels
  • Function/Use: Townhouse
  • Location: Brussels, Belgium
  • Date of construction: 1905
  • Architect: Paul Cauchie
  • Key Features: Sgraffito on walls
  • Materials Used: brick, stone, glass, ceramics
  • Structure: The house was filled with multiple forms of art.
  • Façade: At the very center of the façade, Cauchie drew the words Par Nous — Pour Nous.” The decoration focuses less on plant-like forms and more on a subtle interpretation of the female form.  Its façade is remarkable for its allegorical graffiti. The decoration focuses less on plant-like forms and more on a subtle interpretation of the female form.

7. Paris Metro Entrances

Art Nouveau
Image source: parisdigest.com
  • Building: Paris Metro Entrances
  • Function/Use: Entrances to the underground stations
  • Location: Paris, France
  • Date of construction: 1900-1913
  • Architect: Hector Guimard
  • Key Features: Stylized plant forms
  • Materials Used: Cast Iron, glass, concrete
  • Structure: Cast Iron set in concrete was used instead of stone to reduce costs and suit Art Nouveau styles. They were painted in green emulating weathered brass. The majority of the entrances were unroofed enclosures, moreover considered as a stylistic identity. A few of the features were – elaborate structures, sites with vegetation, transitional forms, glass roofs, railing cartouches incorporating the letters related to “Metro,” free-standing pavilions, projecting canopies, etc.
  • Façade: Using cast iron and amber glass molded to form incredible, stylized plant forms of natural delight, these designs served as the initial entrances to the Paris Metro system. Guimard’s choice of material, in particular cast iron, was not only less expensive to produce in multiples but also required less space, an issue on some of the tighter sites.

8. Secession Building

Art Nouveau
Image source: smarthistory.org
  • Building: Secession Building
  • Function/Use: Exhibition Hall
  • Location: Vienna, Austria
  • Date of construction: 1897-1898
  • Architect: Joseph Maria Olbrich
  • Key Features: Gleaming white walls, the sphere of golden leaves
  • Materials Used: masonry, plaster, gilded inscriptions
  • Structure: The building features the Beethoven Frieze by Gustav Klimt. It’s gleaming white walls, lack of windows, gilded inscriptions, and strange floating sphere of golden leaves composed of 3000 leaves is an architectural manifesto for Vienna.
  • Façade: The motto of the Secessionist movement is written above the entrance of the pavilion: “To every age its art, to every art its freedom”.

9. Sagrada Familia

Image source: archdaily.com
  • Building: Sagrada Familia
  • Function/Use: Cathedral
  • Location: Barcelona, Spain
  • Date of construction: started in late 1980 and is still under construction
  • Architect: Antoni Gaudi
  • Key Features: Entrance, towers, and ornamentation
  • Materials Used: stone
  • Structure: Gaudí took over as chief architect, transforming the project with his architectural and engineering style, combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms.
  • Façade: The ornamentation of each spire and element differ from each other, which is a manifestation of biomorphic design.
  • Interiors: The interior comprises tree-shaped columns connecting together as a canopy above, foliage form-like structures, sharp angles, skylights, human figures, etc.

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