An Art Deco Palace

Described as a true “jewel of Art Deco”, the Palais de la Porte Dorée is characteristic of Art Deco architecture, an art movement that developed between 1910 and 1940 (which took its name from the 1925 Expo des Arts Décoratifs in Paris).

La façade du Palais
La façade du Palais de la Porte Dorée
© Pascal Lemaître

A characteristic architectural vocabulary

The first truly international style, symbol of a worldwide, modernist art form, Art Deco can be recognised by an architectural style repertoire, made up of distinctive signs.

The abstract and figurative forms are characteristic of a formal style involving a minimalist design, with little ornamentation and making use of symbolised decorative patterns. The large volumes, highlighting the monumental aspect, reinforce the symmetry of spaces and rigorous compositions, which are supported by pure, simple geometric lines (sharp angles and right angles in contrast to the tangled curves of Art Nouveau).

The Palais de la Porte Dorée, built between 1929 and 1931, was seen as a true Art Deco manifesto, summarising the architectural vocabulary of this new style: symmetry, geometric lines, stylistic syncretism, monumentality, colonnade, large forecourt, zenithal lighting, reinforced concrete loadbearing structure, etc.

It was the forerunner of the Palais de Chaillot and the Palais de Tokyo (both built for the 1937 Universal Exposition), which used the same Art Deco architectural codes. The façade of the Palais de Tokyo is also decorated with two bas-reliefs created by Alfred Janniot.

Art Deco materials

Another characteristic of Art Deco at the Palais de la Porte Dorée lies in the use of materials specific to that period, such as reinforced concrete, cut stone, exotic woods or forged iron, along with noble and precious materials, from the luxury world (lacquer, gilding, silver-bronze, precious wood, ivory and shagreen inlays for Ruhlmann’s furniture).

A total work of art

The architect of the Palais, Albert Laprade (1883-1978), designed it as a total work of art, typical of Art Deco, in which the decorative arts are an element inseparable from the architecture itself, with décor and furniture placed on the same level as the architectural elements, both in terms of quality of the materials and highlighting of a particular type of arts and crafts.

Laprade called on the great artistic figures of his era, so much so that the Palais is like a catalogue of the best Art Deco artists. All the decorative arts were solicited, adopting a coherent and global approach to produce a collective creation, the result of teamwork: cabinetmaking, sculpture, ironwork, mosaic, fresco, painting, glasswork… Art Deco artists were in many cases multi-disciplinary and excelled in many fields, exploiting a variety of techniques at the service of the same aesthetic. Most of them made a name for themselves during the 1925 Exposition.

The decoration of the two historic salons highlights the figure of the interior designer, a “must” in the decoration world at the time. The two famous Art Deco designers who worked there (Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann - 1879-1933 – for the "Africa" Salon – and Eugène Printz - 1889-1948 – for the "Asia" Salon) designed all of the décor as a total system, mastering the entire creative process: the design of the furniture, the patterns on the marquetry floors, the choice of materials for the wood trim of the décor, etc.

The large forged iron lamps with two bowls in the Hall of Honour are by Raymond Subes (1891-1970), who also created the large vases éclairants made from embossed brass in the Africa Salon and the open ironwork overhanging the Hall of Honour.

The other examples of ironwork at the Palais were created by Edgar Brandt (ethnic motifs on the imposts of the French windows in the Hall of Honour) and Gilbert Poillerat (ironwork on the North staircase). The forged iron railing at the main entrance decorated with golden triangles is by the famous art ironworker Jean Prouvé (1901-1984).