To put it bluntly, the 1920’s looked like a right laugh.
Pre-world war one the western world was still rooted in old Christian values. But the atrocities committed during the war made people question a lot of things. Subsequently people began to get a lot more liberal. In America especially progress abounded. The country achieved a sustained period of economic growth, science and technology took huge leaps, even homosexuality began to get more accepted.
Strangely enough it was also the period in which America went through prohibition. But we all know, when you ban something, it just makes it all the more fun. Moonshine and speakeasies were rampant.
Yep, the roaring twenties looked like a whole lot of fun.
Throughout Europe design progressed leaps and bounds. It was around this time that the Modernism movement began taking place in France, which still affects design to this day. In complete contrast to the frilly and excessive design of preceding it, modernism encourages a stripping down of objects and design to their bare essentials. Architects began to design with functionality, efficiency and economy in mind. Kitchen, living rooms and dining rooms became open plan. Inbuilt storage with shelves and such built into nooks and crevices increased the efficiency of space and created more available square feet in homes.
Arising from modernism came two large design movements, the influences of which can still be seen today. The first of which most people are aware of: Art Deco.
When we imagine the 20’s, we imagine Art Deco. The two just go hand in hand. Art deco, which originated in France after WWI, uses simple geometric shapes, bright colours and definitely has an air of… show biz. The size and scope that Art Deco cannot be overestimated. It was a worldwide phenomenon that strove to celebrate human decadence and our need for beauty.
It drew from influences globally. It is easy to see the romantic link between Art Deco and the excitement surrounding the Ancient Egyptians and Meso-Americans at the time. Colours and shapes were borrowed from Africa with themes taken from the exuberant ballets of Paris. It spread across all forms of design: from art to photography to architecture, even to transport.
There are still many wonderful examples of art deco design, such as buildings and vehicles that have survived through to this day.
The Bauhaus School of Design is the other large influencer from the 20’s. Formed in 1919 it ran from several locations before being shut down for political reasons in 1933. Mainly known for its influence on architecture, the School of Bauhaus strove to achieve the ideal of creating a ‘total’ work of art and design that would unify all design elements.
Bauhaus is similar to art deco with its use of simple shapes. But in its essence it is less ‘showboaty’ stating that designs and creations should be true to the source material: it is closer to modernism in this aspect than Art Deco is. One large aspect that Bauhaus contributed to design is it started to view objects that were previously utilitarian as potentially beautiful objects. Items were created that not only functioned well, but were pleasing to look at. Though they always remained true to the source material. Bauhaus celebrated the advancements in the technologies of the time. It encouraged a scientific approach to design and to display an items mechanical roots.