Streamline Moderne

Streamline Moderne, sometimes termed Art Moderne, is a late type of the Art Deco architecture and graphic design/style that emerged in the 1930s. Its architectural style emphasized curving forms, long horizontal lines, and sometimes nautical elements.[1] Moderne architecture includes other subtypes besides Art Moderne/Streamline, such as PWA Moderne.


Hamilton GO Station, Hamilton, Ontario
Cleveland Greyhound
Greyhound bus terminal, Cleveland, Ohio
Gdynia- Dom %C5%BBeglarza Polskiego (4)
Gdynia Maritime University, Poland, 1937
Club Moderne, Anaconda, Montana
Club Moderne, Anaconda, Montana
Bathers' Building, now the Maritime Museum (1937) in San Francisco's Aquatic Park, evokes a streamlined double-ended ferryboat.
Clock Tower, Star Ferry Pier in Central
Former Star Ferry Pier in Central, Hong Kong, now demolished
Knapps Building
J. W. Knapp Company Building (1937), Lansing, Michigan
Hamilton Hydro-Electric System Building (1935), Hamilton, Ontario
Regent Court central block
Central block of Regent Court from Bradfield Road, Hillsborough, Sheffield

The first streamline buildings evolved from the work of New Objectivity artists, a movement connected to the German Werkbund, that was initiated by Hermann Muthesius (see e.g. Mossehaus).

The oldest surviving example of Streamline design in the United States is the 1929 Lake Worth Playhouse, in Lake Worth, Florida.[2]

As the Great Depression of the 1930s progressed, Americans saw a new aspect of Art Deco—i.e., streamlining, a concept first conceived by industrial designers who stripped Art Deco design of its ornament in favor of the aerodynamic pure-line concept of motion and speed developed from scientific thinking. Cylindrical forms and long horizontal windowing also may be influenced by constructivism. As a result, an array of designers quickly ultra-modernized and streamlined the designs of everyday objects. Manufacturers of clocks, radios, telephones, cars, furniture, and many other household appliances embraced the concept.

The style was the first to incorporate electric light into architectural structure. In the first-class dining room of the SS Normandie, fitted out 1933–35, twelve tall pillars of Lalique glass, and 38 columns lit from within illuminated the room. The Strand Palace Hotel foyer (1930), preserved from demolition by the Victoria and Albert Museum during 1969, was one of the first uses of internally lit architectural glass, and coincidentally was the first Moderne interior preserved in a museum.

The Streamline Moderne was both a reaction to Art Deco and a reflection of austere economic times; Sharp angles were replaced with simple, aerodynamic curves. Exotic woods and stone were replaced with concrete and glass.

Art Deco and Streamline Moderne were not necessarily opposites. Streamline Moderne buildings with a few Deco elements were not uncommon but the prime movers behind streamline design (Raymond Loewy, Walter Dorwin Teague, Gilbert Rohde, Norman Bel Geddes) all disliked Art Deco, seeing it as effete and falsely modern—essentially a fraud.

PWA Moderne was a related style in the United States of buildings completed between 1933 and 1944 as part of relief projects sponsored by the Public Works Administration (PWA) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA).


Common characteristics of Streamline Moderne and Art Moderne

  • Horizontal orientation
  • Rounded edges, corner windows
  • Glass brick walls
  • Porthole windows
  • Chrome hardware
  • Smooth exterior wall surfaces, usually stucco (smooth plaster finish)
  • Flat roof with coping
  • Also no roof at all, with no coping.
  • Horizontal grooves or lines in walls
  • Subdued colors: base colors were typically light earth tones, off-whites, or beiges; and trim colors were typically dark colors (or bright metals) to contrast from the light base

The Normandie Hotel, which opened during 1942, is built in the stylized shape of the ocean liner SS Normandie, and it includes the ship's original sign. The Sterling Streamliner Diners were diners designed like streamlined trains.

Although Streamline Moderne houses are less common than streamline commercial buildings, residences do exist. The Lydecker House in Los Angeles, built by Howard Lydecker, is an example of Streamline Moderne design in residential architecture. In tract development, elements of the style were frequently used as a variation in postwar row housing in San Francisco's Sunset District.

Industrial design

The style was applied to appliances such as electric clocks, sewing machines, small radio receivers and vacuum cleaners. Their manufacturing processes exploited developments in materials science including aluminium and bakelite. Compared to Europe, the United States in the 1930s had a stronger focus on design as a means to increase sales of consumer products. Streamlining was associated with prosperity and an exciting future. This hope resonated with the American middle class, the major market for consumer products. A wide range of goods from refrigerators to pencil sharpeners was produced in streamlined designs.

Streamlining became a widespread design practice for automobiles, railroad cars, buses, and other vehicles in the 1930s. Notable automobile examples include the 1934 Chrysler Airflow, the 1950 Nash Ambassador "Airflyte" sedan with its distinctive low fender lines, as well as Hudson's postwar cars, such as the Commodore,[3] that "were distinctive streamliners—ponderous, massive automobiles with a style all their own".[4]

Streamline style can be contrasted with functionalism, which was a leading design style in Europe at the same time. One reason for the simple designs in functionalism was to lower the production costs of the items, making them affordable to the large European working class.[5] Streamlining and functionalism represent two very different schools in modernistic industrial design, but both reflecting the intended consumer.

Rumpler Tropfenwagen

1921 The Rumpler Tropfenwagen was to be the first streamlined car.

Stamps of Romania, 2010-79

1922 Aurel Persu automobile was the first car to have the wheels inside its aerodynamic line.

Tatra 77A dutch licence registration AM-44-01 pic10

1934 Tatra 77 is the first serial-produced truly aerodynamically designed automobile.


1939 Schlörwagen - Subsequent wind tunnel tests yielded a drag coefficient of 0.113

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-R98029, Schienenzeppelin in Berlin

1929: The Schienenzeppelin or rail zeppelin was an experimental railcar which resembled a zeppelin airship in appearance. It accelerated the railcar to 230.2 km/h (143 mph) setting the land speed record for a petrol powered rail vehicle.

1948 Hudson Commodore

1948 Hudson Commodore was designed without a wind tunnel, but later tests showed almost 20% less drag than contemporary notchback sedans.[3]

Nash Stateman 2-Door Sedan 1951

1951 Nash Statesman "Airflyte" [6][7][8]

1958 Airstream travel trailer

1958 Airstream travel trailer


MV Kalakala, 1935

NYC Hudson2

New York Central steam locomotive restyled by industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss, 1938

San Francisco Chief

Santa Fe Railway's San Francisco Chief, a late 1940s streamlined design with paint scheme dating from the late 1930s

Crosley radio

Bakelite radio

Notable examples

In architecture and design

NY Worlds%27 Fair streamlined Hudson LC-G613-T01-35339 DLC
20th Century Limited (1938), train designed by Henry Dreyfuss
Media related to streamlined locomotives at Wikimedia Commons

In motion pictures

See also


  1. ^ "A true example of Streamline Moderne". Times of Malta. 6 September 2012. Archived from the original on 1 April 2016.
  2. ^ Koskoff, Sharon (2007). Art Deco of the Palm Beaches. Arcadia Publishing. pp. 16–20. ISBN 9780738544151. Retrieved February 14, 2018.
  3. ^ a b "1948 Hudson Models - Tech Pages Article". Auto History Preservation Society. Retrieved February 14, 2018.
  4. ^ Reed, Robert C. (1975). The Streamline Era. San Marino, California: Golden West Books. ISBN 0-87095-053-3.
  5. ^ Nickelsen, Trine (15 June 2010). "Aluminium – en kulturhistorie" (in Norwegian). Apollon. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  6. ^ "Why Nash?". N.A.D.A. Magazine: 28–29 and 45. 1949. Retrieved June 26, 2017. Nash has gone farthest in functional design, to derive the fullest benefits of modern streamlining principles.
  7. ^ Mcclurg, Bob (2016). History of AMC motorsports. Car Tech. p. 18. ISBN 9781613251775. Retrieved June 26, 2017.
  8. ^ "20.7% Less Air Drag! (Nash Airflyte advertisement)". Life. 28 (2). January 9, 1950. Retrieved June 26, 2017.
  9. ^ a b Bettsky, Aaron (15 July 1993). "A Hollywood Ending for Those Who Take This Elevator to the Top". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  10. ^ Bos, Sascha (16 July 2014). "Historic 1938 Building Could Complicate Massive WeHo Development". LA Weekly. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  11. ^ Lipman, Jonathan; Wright, Frank Lloyd (2003). Frank Lloyd Wright and the Johnson Wax Buildings. Dover Publications. ISBN 978-0-486-42748-5. Retrieved 17 February 2015.

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