New materials used by Art Nouveau artists

Cast iron

One of the main products of the first industrial revolution. Produced in blast furnace by adjunction of carbon to iron. (See on the left a metro entrance in cast iron by Guimard). It is merely used as colomns in the building field.

Steel and iron

This material is the symbol of the first industrial revolution (from 1830). The first buildings to use it were bridges, railway stations, ... or in exhibition halls like the Cristal Palace in 1851; but its introduction into real building is from the 1870ies, and starts with the "Grand Magasins" (departement stores or spectacle buildings). Unfortunately many of these buildings were destroyed by fire, as steel does not resist very well to this threat. At the turn of the century, iron is more and more used for wall anchors or door/window XXX.

Old England in Brussels

Le Parisien building in Paris



The raise of pottery industry with for example Bigot in France who supplied a lot of Art Nouveau architects including Guimard, Gaudi and Lavirotte and famous firms like Bigot or Villeroy & Bosch. Gaudi used old shrades of ceramics called "trencadis" to cover some of his buildings.

The interest for the use of ceramics in architecture is due to four main factors:

Maison Belliard, Paris

Bench in Park Guell by Gaudi and Jujol


The use of glass in building has really exponed during the second part of the 18th century

Art Nouveau has made a large use of glass for several reasons :


Horta's house in Brussels

Reinforced concrete

First steps of concrete in architecture

This technique was more and more used by architects and engineers to build larger buildings with shorter delays.

Lift elevators

Elevators become to an accessible price and disponibility at the end of the Art Nouveau period. The "masters floor" is still the first floor in almost every Art Nouveau building because masters don't want to make efforts to climb up to the top floor. Upper floors were dedicated to servants. In 1888, magazines like "La construction moderne" described the technics of lift elevator.

With the arrival of lifts, the masters floor will be the last floor because air is much more respirable there and it maximizes the sun enlightment.

Electrical lights

Invented in 1880 the incandescant light brought a revolution into lightening. From candles or gas lamps to electrical lamps. Electricity has make the design of lamps evolve.

Central heating


©1993-2012 Frank Derville
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