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1920s Architecture

A presentation about the architecture of America during the 1920s during the time of The Great Gatsby.
by

Stacey V

on 23 July 2011

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Transcript of 1920s Architecture

Rockefeller Center - New York
1932 Empire State Building - New York
1931 Chrysler Building - New York
1928 Tribune Tower - Chicago
1922 Home Video: Fitzgerald also writes a bit about New York when Nick goes into the city, but we see more of America’s industrial drive through his description of the Valley of Ashes. The long stretch of wasteland was created by the dumping of industrial ashes, and represents the poor, decaying side of America in the twenties. This was when the first real American slums began to develop due to rapid urbanization.

The 1920s was the time of a great shift in American architecture, the greatest influence being the rise of the industry that led to the rise of the skyscraper. Rosecliff Mansion Oheka Castle Gatsby’s house is a Georgian Colonial (Neo-classical style), contrasting the new, modern style of architecture that was sweeping the rest of the nation. While Art Deco was the latest trend, Fitzgerald shows the reader that the old, traditional style was still admired and associated with the rich.

Most of America’s castles, palaces, and mansions were built in the 1920s, before there was income tax, during a time when the rich were extremely rich. During the roaring twenties, prosperity soared and the dream of living in one of these “Great American Mansions” was added to everyone’s list.

Oheka Castle, located on Long Island’s north shore, was used by Fitzgerald as inspiration for Gatsby’s house.

Another example of a well-known American mansion is Rosecliff Mansion, located in Newport, Rhode Island. The ballroom was used as a set for one of the Great Gatsby movies. Elevators had already been invented in 1853 and were being used in the skyscrapers in Chicago, Boston and New York. The cranes at the top of the skyscrapers were built up through the elevator shafts.

It was the construction of these iconic buildings that became a major influence to keep the country moving forward after the Great Depression. Construction didn’t slow down during one of America’s worst economic periods in history, allowing cities to continue to grow. Johnny - "The Catcher" However, the development of structural steel and reinforced concrete allowed relatively small columns to support large loads and exteriors walls of buildings were no longer needed for structural support.

A new construction technique called a "curtain wall" was developed. The idea was that the exterior walls should be simply a covering to keep out the weather, but not a part of the actual structure. The wall itself is just a “curtain” that hangs off the steel structure.

The steel structure was usually riveted at that time. Men balancing fifty stories in the air had to walk across beams with red hot metal rivets to another man who was waiting to hammer the other end of the rivet after placing it in the steel before it cooled. A majority of the men building these skyscrapers in New York were Eastern Canadians, because they were used to working up high when building the sterns of large ships. They also hired a lot of Mohawk Indians, who were known for having no fear of heights.

Previously, architects had been limited to about 13-story buildings using load-bearing masonry construction.

Buildings were constructed so that the exteriors walls supported the load of the entire structure. Skyscrapers were impractical because the base of the building would have to be unrealistically wide in order to support a building that tall. Detroit followed the skyscraper trend, a few years after, but nothing comparable to the scale and speed of New York.

The skyscraper paid homage to the industry and automobiles, and our fascination with them still hasn’t faded away.

The Manhattan skyline is a great example of a chronological skyline, showing how the development of the industry and technology led to bigger, stronger, more impressive buildings. In New York, the rise of the skyscraper led to a competition for the highest building. The two main competitors at the time were the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building (1929).

The Chrysler building became the tallest building in the world for eleven months. In 1931, a 200-foot antenna spire was added to the Empire State Building at the last minute, winning the tallest skyscraper competition at a height of 1454 ft (102 floors).

Since 1931, it’s been the tallest building in the world (as of now, in 1966). The 1920s decade is also considered the age of the skyscraper.

During this time period, the industrial world was exploding, and large steel buildings represented the impact of the industry on the advancing world.

Although everyone usually thinks of New York when they hear “skyscraper”, the trend actually started in Chicago because a majority of the city was burned down in the Great Chicago Fire, and they were starting to rebuild at this time. The fire led to the largest building boom in the history of the United States. An important architect at the time was Mies van der Rohe, one of the head directors of Bauhaus and the designer of numerous famous buildings, including the Barcelona Pavilion and Villa Tugendhat.

The famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright also borrowed ideas from the modern style. Frank Lloyd Wright's
Falling Water Barcelona Pavilion Villa Tugendhat Bauhaus Gothic Victorian Home The style was a reaction to the old-fashioned Gothic architecture. Up until the 1920s, architecture had been fancy and intricate, focusing on decorative detailing.

In the 1920s, thoughts on architecture changed – it was decided that nothing should be put on the architecture unless it was a part of it.

Everything became boxy, linear, and functional. The style focused on simple shapes, simple designs, and new ideas. During the 1920s, the main styles of architecture that emerged were Art Deco and Modern architecture.

The Art Deco movement started in Paris, but quickly spread around Europe and over to America.

The style was largely developed at Bauhaus, a school in Germany that became famous for its approach to the design.

The architecture that emerged from this modern movement in Europe is often referred to as Neues Bauen (New Building). 1920s Architecture The New Movement The Skyscraper Construction Architecture in The Great Gatsby
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