There are a number of buildings in Oakland that are exemplary art deco buildings, many of which also utilize architectural terra cotta (notably, colored terra cotta, ranging from light green to black). Some buildings (like the Floral Depot building) have silver terra cotta, which is not painted, and requires a special two-fire process.
Why are there so many art deco buildings in Oakland and why do so many of them utilize terra cotta? Terra cotta was in vogue at the same time as art deco architecture (the 1930s). Terra cotta is cheap, durable, fire-proof, and beautiful. Additionally, according to the Guide to Architecture in San Francisco and Northern California, the "Downtown Property Owner's Association in 1932 fostered the modernization of stores and business buildings by removing bays and other irregular features while replacing Victorian Gothic ornament with Zigzag or Art Deco detail. All this has made the area a rich field for the fancier of the Moderne." (pg. 295)
Notable art deco terra cotta buildings in Oakland are the Oakland Floral Depot,I. Magnin building, the Paramount, Breuner Building, 1721 Broadway, 347 14th Street, and the Howden Building (which was actually a tile company). The first six of these were all built in 1931, with Howden built in 1925. A number of these (I. Magnin, Breuner, 1721 Broadway, and 347 14th) utilize green terra cotta (anyone know if there's a reason for this?).
Many people might not think of Oakland as a terra cotta mecca but it most definitely is, along with Los Angeles and Tulsa, OK (which had an art deco boom).
Pages tagged “art deco”
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Learn more about Oakland's architectural history.