Spot a Style: Streamline Moderne - 3.4 out of 5 based on 5 votes

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Streamline Moderne, with an unexpected -e at the end, is a highly influential architectural and industrial design styles of the 1930-1950 period. It has its origins in Art Deco, but goes beyond it by smoothing out Art Deco’s features and expanding its reach to include mass-produced everyday objects.

 

K.E.M. Weber, Lawson Zephyr Clock, 1933 — Source: collectorsweekly.com

While Art Deco prefers straight lines and angles, Streamline focuses on aerodynamics and relies on smooth curves, borrowing elements from boat design, which is why it’s called Style Paquebot, i.e. Ocean Liner Style, in French.

How do you spot Streamline Moderne? Here are its characteristic features:

– emphasis on horizontal lines

– aerodynamic design suggestive of speed

– perfectly smooth and polished curves

– rounded corners and edges

– round openings inspired by porthole windows

– strong presence of chrome

– walls of glass bricks

The most striking examples of Streamline design are naturally related to transportation. Here is the S1 Locomotive, designed for Pennsylvania Railroads by Raymond Loewy, the French-American designer who is one of the pioneers of Streamline:

PRR S1 at New York World’s Fair, 1939-1940 — Photo from William Burket collection

In the automobile industry, Hudson cars from the 1940s are typically Streamline:

1947 Hudson Commodore Convertible — Source: wikicommons

Streamline trailers are perhaps even more iconic, especially the originals — the 1935 Bowlus Road Chief and the 1936 Airstream Clipper:

 Vintage 1935 Road Chief, designed by William Hawley Bowlus — Source: vintagetrailercamp.com

1936 Airstream Clipper on the road — Source: boston.com

Streamline Moderne, however, had an even more significant impact in the field of home appliances, as it became part of everyday life from the late 1930s to the late 1950s:

Crosley Streamlined Fridge, 1930s — Source: sciencemuseum.org.uk

Robert Heller, Airflow Fan, 1940s — Source: arttattler.com

Walter Dorwin Teague, Desk Lamp, c.1939 — Source: 1stdibs.com

Streamline applies to architecture as well, especially when associated to transportation, as in Greyhound bus stations from the 1940s and 50s:

1940s Greyhound Station, Blytheville, Arkansas — Source: waymarking.com

1940s Postcard — Source: viewlinerltd.blogspot

Another great example is San Francisco’s Bathers’ Building, now a museum, built in the late 1930s and designed to evoke a boat:

Source: nps.gov

Larger examples of Streamline Moderne can be seen in Miami’s Art Deco district, which includes the Marlin Hotel, built in 1939, and the Sherbrooke Hotel, built in 1948:

Source: ruskinarc.com

Source: images.travelpod.com

So, if it’s from the 1930-1950 period and has smooth, aerodynamic curves evoking horizontal speed, chances are it’s Streamline Moderne. If it’s brand new but has clean retro curves, it’s probably inspired by Streamline Moderne.