Art Deco Architecture in Nice, France

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Art Deco has had a major influence on the architectural landscape of major French cities since its appearance in the 1910s. Today, Paris, Nice or Bordeaux still have many buildings of this artistic movement. This architectural style was born with the real intention of being opposed to Art Nouveau, known for its curved lines and organic forms. Moreover, in 1925, the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts took place in Paris and this proved to be a key year.

Nice is part of the very example of art deco style architecture. Indeed, when you take the time to stroll around and to look up to see the buildings, you will find the important concentration of this style.

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The architecture, omnipresent on the famous Promenade des Anglais but also in famous districts such as the Carré d’Or or also the Quartier des Musiciens, is really celebrated by buildings that later became private housing for the most part. It is therefore rarely possible to enter these places, but we can appreciate this art from the outside.

Style influences all visual arts and even crafts. Villas, houses, hotels are Art Deco from floor to ceiling. Furniture, glass roofs, doors, door handles, everything insists on the realisation of a total and refined art. Architects use noble materials such as silver, jade, crystal, ivory and lacquer, but this trend is fading with industrial materials such as plastic and chrome. For artists, the most important thing will be to meet the needs of the population for elegance and functionality.

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The fundamental attraction of art deco architecture in Nice is found in the fact that most buildings such as the Musiciens district refuse right angles, so corner buildings are often rounded. A little further on, on the Promenade des Anglais, you can see the Palais Mascotte, built in the 1930s, with a small circular turret with columns at the top of the corner of the building.

Art Deco artists remain very attached to outdoor and indoor decoration. This is why the Rotunda, a building located on Boulevard Gambetta, is a perfect example of the birth of an art form with decorative motifs, painted mainly on balconies or railings.
Bas-reliefs above the doors, mosaics, ceramics, painting also make their appearances from the street.

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Ironwork, too, with simple or complex patterns, is used for doors, railings, grills, balconies. The spiral motifs are the very characteristics of Art Deco and can be found on the facade of the Palais Blacas, in the Carabacel district or in Cannes, where the interior staircase of the former Hotel Martinez plays with its shapes and exceptional work.

The Art Deco style was really at its height thanks to the shipbuilding industry, which was in full expansion at the time, and which inspired the architects. We will speak of a “liner” shape for many white structures, elongated and often placed in a prominent angle, with sober facades favouring bow windows and porthole windows. When you go to boulevard Dubouchage in Nice, you will find the Empire building, where the windows play copies of the windows of the transatlantic liners.

Art Deco did not stop at cultural and commercial buildings, but also largely invested in domestic architecture. In fact, the wealthy classes seized this new architectural trend by decorating the facades with colours or mosaics, a sign of social distinction at receptions.

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Luckily, some remains of these private buildings are still visible, such as the Maison de Verre, dating from 1928 in Paris, or the Palais de la Méditérannée in Nice from 1929.

Unfortunately, the Art Deco style began to disappear in the late 1930s, with the politicization of Classical Modernism, but also at the beginning of the Second World War. This period gave way to another style influenced by the Bauhaus, more adapted to the needs of industrial modernism.

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