Architecture: the essence of Art Deco in Lyon
Art Deco, with its penchant for straight lines and geometric patterns, is widely represented in Lyon. Symbolic buildings, such as the Le Barioz building, the Palais de Flore, or the former Citroën garage, are scattered throughout the city. This month’s quick overview of the most famous buildings before approaching more obscure constructions soon.
Reluctant to embrace Art Nouveau in the late 19th century, Lyon enthusiastically adopted Art Deco decades later. Widespread around the city, examples of Art Deco buildings can be found in all arrondissements of Lyon. The prize undoubtedly went to the 6th arrondissement, many of its buildings erected in this style.
The rise of Art Deco
Art Deco stands for “Decorative Arts”. It includes architecture and interior design. The eclectic style, with bold geometric shapes, set a counterpoint to Art Nouveau with curves and scrolls that are sometimes considered lush. Far from being an artistic revolution, it is more of a progressive evolution between the two styles. The straight and smooth lines of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, in Scotland, or Otto Wagner, of the division of Vienna, in Austria, have defined the geometric shapes of the early 20th century. In both cases, ornamentation through the use of iron, floral motifs, bas-reliefs, statues, etc. defend an important place.
The emergence of the Art Deco style is generally associated with the period after the First World War, but its beginnings can be felt as far back as 1910. The Cateland Building in Vaise (see next issue) is a good example of this. . Associated with the “Roaring Twenties”, Art Deco flourished in the 1920s. 1925 was a key year with the Decorative Arts Exhibition in Paris, which incidentally gave it its name. It declined in the late 1930’s to disappear with the Second World War.
The emblematic Art Deco building with its dome on the terrace, christened by Lyonnais the “helmet of England”: Palais de Flore. Built by architect Stéphane Clément Laval in 1930, it was, at that time, at forty meters and eleven floors, the tallest building in France. It is built on a metal structure with non-load bearing perforated brick walls. At a crossroads, its location is conducive to a vertical composition reinforced by three angles. The building takes its name from the ancient god Flore, patron of the plant world.
On the Quai Sarrail, the Le Barioz building (1929-1932) is one of the city’s most beautiful Art Deco gems. An atypical example in Lyon, architects Louis and Charles Donneaud combined stucco reinforced four pilasters and a pediment with red bricks in the window sills. This single combination gives the building a dizzying momentum, reminiscent of American skyscrapers. The building is topped by a half dome and terraced pediment from which rise two surfacing, each two meters seventy high. Chorel’s works give the building, commissioned by the refined Barioz, a unique decorative aspect, visible from afar. The portrait of the Barioz couple, for some, the statue would represent Minerva, the goddess of wisdom and Mercury, the god of commerce and travelers.
The mythical Citroën garage
Now an office building, the former Citroën garage is an unmissable landmark in the city. This concrete and glass behemoth, completed in 1932, borrows from the Art Deco codes and functionalist architecture of the time. According to a publicity flyer at the time, the garage was “the world’s largest gas station”. With 6,000 m2 of glass, a monumental hall eighteen meters high, a car access ramp 350 meters long and 130 meters long, the building is the size of six stacked football fields. Built by architect Maurice-Jacques Ravazé, the ironwork was shaped by renowned designer and architect Jean Prouvé.
Created between 1929 and 1936 by Charles Meysson, its hexagonal windows, reinforced concrete canopies, and typographic geometric patterns use Art Deco vocabulary.
Lalande’s telephone exchange
Overlooking the Palais de Flore, this distinctive Art Deco building was built by Charles Meysson in the late 1920s. The facade is decorated with numerous reliefs with floral and organic motifs.
Ampere telephone exchange
We are also indebted to Charles Meysson this telephone exchange built in 1926. Its decoration made of hexagonal patterns is characteristic.
Arrow from the Pathé cinema
Known to the people of Lyon, the Pathé-Bellecour cinema boasts a thirty-three meter high Art Deco tower, topped with the brand’s emblematic rooster. In 1932, Pathé asked architect Eugène Chirié to build a 1,600-seat cinema on the site of the former Kursaal casino. Completely redesigned in the 1990s, the façade has been retained.
We owe Roux-Spitz the Grande Poste, place Antonin-Poncet. Built between 1935 and 1938, it is more representative of 1930s architecture than Art Deco. Only the pattern of three vertical bands on the upper floors of the building brightens up the façade as well as some beautiful sculptures and reliefs.
This former village hall was also built from 1924 to 1929 by Michel Roux-Spitz, a pupil of Tony Garnier. The façade is decorated with large claustras (openwork walls) whose glazed tiles are slightly yellow. Roux-Spitz also built the current Théâtre des Jeunes Années, in Vaise, in a similar style.
Tony Garnier (1869-1948) and Decorative Arts
The renowned architect from Lyon, known for his industrial city projects, developed a fruitful collaboration with the then mayor, Édouard Herriot. Tony Garnier specifically orchestrated four major projects – the La Mouche slaughterhouse, the Grange-Blanche hospital, the Gerland municipal stadium and the United States district – all of which reached their peak in the 1920s and 1930s, at the height of the decorative arts.
In 1925, an important year for Decorative Arts, he took part in the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts and Modern Industry in Paris. Selected for the construction of the Lyon-Saint-Étienne pavilion, he proposed a building that was already emerging in his industrial city for his assembly building, as well as for a Labor Exchange project in Lyon. It takes the form of a large room topped by a three-tiered octagonal cupola, the cupola for which inspiration was found in the chapel of the Édouard-Herriot hospital, typed Art Deco, built by his pupil and collaborator, Louis Thomas. .
Tony Garnier often surrounded himself with artists and decorators (Jean-Baptiste Larrivé, Claudius Linossier, etc.) and stated in his Cité Industrielle in 1917: “If our structure remains simple, without ornament, without molding, naked everywhere , then we can discard decorative arts in all its forms.”
However, it is difficult to relate it to the Art Deco movement, although certain buildings, such as the Édouard-Herriot hospital (which took place from 1913 to 1933), use its code. The Cité Tony-Garnier building in the 8th arrondissement (apart from the bow and shutters), with its sober, architecturally more modern than Art Deco.
The interwar period is characterized by artistic foam. In Weimar, Gropius created the Bauhaus in 1919, while the international style or Modern Movement also asserted itself at this time, bringing together architects such as Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe and those of the De Stijl group in the Netherlands. All these movements influence each other. Art Deco, however, has a few key characteristics of its own. Guided tour through Lyon to highlight it.
• Right angle rejection
Art Deco corner buildings rarely feature right angles. They are very often rounded or cropped. The angle of this “arc” is reminiscent of the transatlantic lines of the 1920s, which later experienced its golden age, like Normandie, a true Art Deco floating palace.
• Cut the sides
Windows, doors, and bas-reliefs often use slanted sides.
• Arc window
Bow windows (projecting windows, also sometimes called oriels) are not typical of Art Deco. They emerged in the late 19th century with Art Nouveau. But Art Deco made extensive use of them, most often using polygonal shapes.
• Various materials
Reinforced concrete is very often used in Art Deco construction, but we also find bits of stone or brick.
Decoration, both interior and exterior, is an important feature of Art Deco. This is one of the main differences that allows it to be distinguished from other concurrent movements such as the Bauhaus, and more generally from the international style or Modern Movement which advocated architecture without ornamentation and favors bare, white facades.
Doors, grilles, balconies and railings often require elegant and sometimes complex ironwork.
• Spiral and floral patterns
Waves and spirals are recurring motifs in Art Deco. Floral and fruit patterns are also common. Unlike Art Nouveau, the patterns are generally stylized and favor geometric shapes.
• Windows windows
Round, hexagonal or octagonal, we find these windows first on the courtyard side, then on the street side. They also refer to the large ocean liners which became popular in the 1920s.
The pediment is making a comeback. Still slightly rounded at the start of the period, it quickly becomes geometric, in three parts.