Art Nouveau Architecture

After the historical eclecticism of the 19th century, there was something truly fresh about this new impulse. A new sense of harmony & proportion. Stylised nature-inspired decorative elements – from local rather than mediterranean or exotic flora & fauna – integrated organically into the overall design. Daring, sometimes irregular, design with flowing lines. Often pastel colours in harmonious combinations.

Art Noveau building, Riga, Latvia

Rafael Masó – Teixidor flower mill, Girona, Spain

Émile André – Villa Les Glycines, Nancy, France

Art Noveau windows typically have panes with the main separation bar roughly two thirds up of and often small-paned sashes in the top third part. Some windows are slightly curved at the top and larger buildings may have one huge semicircular window in the middle.

Villa Ninni (1905), Wittebrugpark, Den Haag, Netherlands

Holmburger Plats 1, Ilmenau, Germany

Art Noveau can be devided into several subcategories, e.g. Organic, Geometric, Historic Revival, National Romantic and Queen Anne.

Organic Art Noveau

The light and swirly French-Belgian style of the Ecole de Nancy, represented by architects & designers such as Victor Horta, Hector Guimard and Henry Van de Velde is often considered the original Art Noveau. Another is the heavier but even more organic and unique style of Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona, and the Antroposophic style initiated by Rudolf Steiner in Dornach, Switzerland (see separate post) during the same period.

Hector Guimard – Metro Porte Dauphine (1899), Paris, France

Giovanni Michelazzi – Villa Broggi Caraceni (1911), Florence, Italy

Antonio Gaudí – Casa Balltó (1877/1904), Barcelona, Spain

Geometric Art Noveau

The Vienna secessionist architects Josef HoffmannJoseph Maria Olbrich and Otto Wagner created a more clean, geometric architectural style, with much use of lines, geometric elements and even more stylised floral designs. A sort of proto-Art Deco. Other representatives of this style are Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Glasgow, Louis Sullivan in USA and sometimes British-born William Walcot in Russia.

Otto Wagner – Kirche am Steinhof (1907), Austria

Jože Plečnik – The Zacherlhaus (1903-06), Vienna, Austria

Charles Rennie Mackintosh – Willow tea rooms, interior (1904), Glasgow, Scotland

Louis Sullivan – Home Building Association Bank (1914), Ohio, USA

William Walcot – Yakunchikova House (1900), Moscow, Russia

Historic Revival Art Noveau

For the first time since medieval times, Art Noveau meant a complete break from the yokes of neoclassicism, though one line of Art Noveau grew out and merged with the many historical Revival styles of the 19th century, especially the older medieval styles such as GothicTudor, and the squat Romanesque style with semicircular arches, towers with short pointed metal roofs and fortress-like thick walls, though more scaled down, rounded, ornamented and playful.

Romanesque Art Noveau villa: Nieuwe Parklaan 7, Wittebrugpark (1899), Den Haag, Netherlands

Romanesque Art Noveau church: Theodor Fischer – Pauluskirche (1908-12), Ulm, Germany

Gothic Revival Art Noveau: Lluís Domènech i Montaner – Casa Fuster (1911), Barcelona, Spain

Tudor Revival Art Noveau: van Lennepweg 38 (1907), Wittebrugpark, Den Haag, Netherlands

Neo-Baroque Art Noveau: Hjalmar Kumlien – Villa Lusthusporten, Stockholm, Sweden

National Romantic Art Noveau

The National Romantic style often merges with Historic Art Noveau, though more progressive with freer interpretations, aiming more to inspire specific emotions, fantasies and ideals than to offer historical accuracy. Most common in Scandinavia, but can also be found in the Baltic region, Russia, Germany and Hungary. Inspiration may come from peasant architecture, Swiss chalets, national mythology or perceived ‘great’ eras of that country, e.g. the Viking period. Colours are typically darker or stronger, lines simpler and straighter, with use of local materials with rougher surfaces such as wood, dark brick and granite. The many small panes of the upper third of Art Noveau windows often cover the whole window in Scandinavian National Romantic buildings.

Agi Lindegren – The Biological Museum, Djurgården, Stockholm, Sweden

Curmanska Villan, Lysekil, Sweden

Solberg Church, interior, Anundsjö, Sweden

Gustaf Wickman – Kiruna Church, Kiruna, Sweden

Per-Olof Hallman – Lärkstaden, Stockholm, Sweden

Emil Wikström – Studio (1883-12), Sääksmäki, Finland

Lars Sonck – Kallio Church (1908–12), Helsinki, Finland

National Museum of Finland

National Museum of Finland

Alexei Bubyr & Nikolai Vasilev – Estonian Drama Theatre (1876-1919), Tallinn, Estonia

Grundtvigs Kirke, Copenhagen

Grundtvigs Kirke, Copenhagen, Denmark

Queen Anne Art Noveau

In the United States, the Victorian Queen Anne style also lasted into and merged with the Art Noveau period. Victorian Queen Anne homes often have towers, turrets, onion domes, wrap-around porches, front-facing gables, bay windows, shingles, Eeastlake style ornaments or other fanciful details along with typical Art Noveau features such as arched windows etc. Some are made in wood, others in stone or brick masonry, in styles that could also sort under Historic Revival Art Noveau.

Queen Ann house (1889), Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, USA

One of the ‘Seven-villas’ (sjuvillorna), Saltsjöbaden, Sweden

Romanesque Queen Anne with brick tower, USA

Victorian town houses, San Fransisco, USA

Queen Anne houses, California Street, Washington D.C., USA

Still – with the exception some stunning buildings by a few of the most visionary architects – Art Noveau architecture, for all it’s fanciful excterior, is often fairly rectilinear and traditional inside, with just some rounded corners and perhaps an organically designed entrance door handle, a wrought iron balcony or stairway railing or some stained glass windows. It manages to marry – in varying proportions – practicality, solidity & tradition on the one hand, with softness, playfulness & visions of a new era on the other. The masculine and femnine principle in synergetic harmony instead of competing with each other.