Prior Early May Bank holiday I started to think how to entertain myself during those 3 days off. I considered going out of London, but then after doing some research realised that there are still so many things I have not seen in London, that I would rather stay here and explore a bit more of this wonderful city.
Recently being a lot into Art Deco style I started to look if I can see any examples of Art Deco architecture or interiors in London and happened that there are quite a few of them. I found a Bloomsbury Art Deco walking tour by Yannick Pucci and decided to give it a go.
Yannick, myself and another 15 art deco enthusiasts met at Russell Square at 2pm on Saturday and spent 2 hours walking around Bloomsbury area. I must say I really enjoyed it. There is so much history behind those buildings we pass everyday, that it is really worth to dedicate some time learning a bit more about them, even if you are not a huge architecture fan like me.
Art Deco style became popular in the 1920s and 1930s and was defined by luxury, glamor, exoticism and the machine age. Think of Great Gatsby here 😉
Distinguishing features of classic Art Deco are simple rectangular forms (more modern than previous styles), combined with curved shapes, decorated by ornamental elements.
Our first stop was Russell Court building, which is located just off Russell square. This mansion block was built in 1937 (it is not listed, so can be demolished if owners wish to do it one day) and celebrated the new emerging fashion for communal living. It consists of single studio flats, that were mostly used for people who were coming to London for work during the week. As living in the flat was completely new to that time, the book called “How to live in the Flat” was published to educate new flat tenants.
The Art Deco style can be recognised in the geometric lines of bay windows, railing and also staircase towers, that celebrate era of skyscrapers in America.
Not far from the Russell square we found Daimler Hire Garage. This building was looking more like Miami style Art Deco buildings, white and rounded.
Daimler Hire garage was home to the luxury car company hiring out chauffeur-driven limousines to the rich and famous. Art Deco features are hard not to notice: geometric shapes, curved lines, staircase tower and decorative elements.
After a short walk, viewing some other sites of a different style, we reached School of Pharmacy, University of London. Flat roof, ornate windows, zig-zaggy railings and Egyptian stylised lamp posts mark the School of Pharmacy as an excellent example of Art Deco.
Senate House was a really WOW-effect building for me. It is massive and it is London’s first skyscraper, which was completed in 1937. It was second only in height to the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, a record it held until the 1960s.
Senate House reminds me Soviet Times Architecture and may be that’s why I liked it even more. Design of the building is very geometric, it looks almost like a massive Lego construction. Decorative ornaments could be spotted in windows and doors design.
Last stop of our tour was Bloomsbury Service Station, which was potentially the oldest petrol station in London.
After the tour I went to Oxford street to do some shopping and proudly spotted an Art Deco building myself :).
Yannick also does Art Deco tours of West End and The Strand areas, looking at the cinemas and theatres built at that time. I am also considering to buy an Art Deco London Map to explore a bit myself, however it is really nice when someone as knowledgeable as Yannick tells you all the history and facts about the sites. We were recommended to visit some other places in London and outside where we could admire Art Deco interiors, so I will definitely try to organise a visit some time soon.