There are two cities which were instrumental in my becoming interested in Art Deco, and especially Art Deco architecture. One is a small city and the other a big one, the former being Napier, New Zealand and the latter Vancouver, Canada. I was born in the east of Canada, but one day my family left the country and sailed off on a big boat to a new life down under in New Zealand. We eventually settled in the seaside town of Napier, which is on the southeast coast of the North Island. Things were different there and certainly the North Island had much milder weather than eastern Canada.
At this time much of the town centre of Napier consisted of commercial buildings which were almost uniformly painted white. Nobody had any notion of there being anything special about them. Nobody could know that some years later Napier would gain a reputation as having one of the most complete and best preserved Art Deco city centres in the world, drawing visitors to it from around the globe.
When I was a young man growing up in Napier I noticed some of the decorative motifs on the city centre shops and admired them. They attracted my eye, nothing else, but hey, even the term ‘Art Deco’ was only a few years old back then. It wouldn’t be until the late 1980s that people would really begin to appreciate its significance and act on it. The old, white buildings in Napier’s town centre began to be tidied up and repainted in the colours of the 1920s and 30s.
After several years of living in New Zealand I returned to Canada, but on the west coast this time. I moved to Vancouver. Here is a city to inspire you! On one side you can see the Pacific Ocean and on the other the peaks of the majestic Coast mountains that begin directly across the harbour in West and North Vancouver. This place has great natural beauty.
Later, I started taking photographs of artistic details of local buildings. I focused on the older parts of Vancouver and discovered much, including plant forms, animals, gods, goddesses, gargoyles and classical forms, as well as local Art Deco buildings and their details. This was the starting point for my serious consideration of this style.
Together, all of these interesting details of buildings gave me the means to put together a book I called ‘Hidden Cities: Art & Design in Architectural Details of Vancouver & Victoria’. I also included some details from Victoria, the capital city of British Colombia, located on Vancouver Island.
I found an established local publisher called Talonbooks that was interested in my project, and published it with them. The finished book was nominated for two awards and won one of them, the City of Vancouver Heritage Book Award for 1992. This was also the beginning of my publishing about Art Deco, in Chapter Nine of ‘Hidden Cities’, and where I begin to focus on Art Deco architecture.
I moved to London in 1994 and have been based there ever since. During this time I explored and researched this great city’s Art Deco architecture and have published a series of ebooks about it. These are available from both Apple and Amazon and can be easily located by searching for them in a browser for: ‘Gregory Edwards London Deco’.
I haventravelled to many other places and always looked out for interesting Art Deco buildings. Some of the other cities present here I visited several times, while others are absent because I never got back. And there are so many more out there in countries around the globe, but consider this a beginning for my Art Deco cities.
All of the photographs are mine unless otherwise credited.
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