When the Strong Building opened, it heralded modernity while acknowledging an architectural debt to the past. This polychromatic Art Deco building is faced with glazed tile. The material became popular in the 1870s for its fireproof and decorative qualities and enjoyed a resurgence in the 1920s and 1930s, thanks largely to its versatility. It could have a sleek glazed surface and be molded into an infinite variety of ornamental motifs. Along this building’s curving facade, Oman and Lilienthal of Chicago used dark brown tile on the first story and pale green tiles on the upper three. Along the Grand Avenue side, these pale green walls rise as reeded pilasters crowned by large stylized daisies glazed in yellow and white on a dark green background. Recessed between the pilasters, reeded spandrels have floral and acanthus leaf–patterned tiles. Such references to classical motifs were common in Art Deco buildings, as were allusions to agricultural themes, seen here in the stylized cornstalks that grow above the otherwise flat roofline.
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