Andre Vera (1881–1971) was a French garden designer, town planner and pioneer of the Art Deco style. He is known for his collaboration with his brother, the painter and decorator Paul Vera. He wanted to renew French design, which he felt had been in decline since the 1840s, and to introduce a modern French style that maintained continuity with earlier French tradition. He was an advocate of the formal French garden, with strictly geometrical designs based on lines and squares in place of the curvilinear forms of Art Nouveau. In urban design he stressed the importance of including trees as architectural elements, which he thought would enhance the mental and physical health of the residents.
Andre Vera was born in Paris in 1881. His father was Gustave Leon Vera, an architect, and his younger brother Paul became a painter and decorator designer. Andre Vera became a garden design theoretician and a town planner.
The Vera brothers were early adopters of the Art Deco style. This originated with the work of Louis Sue, and was described by Andre Vera in his manifesto Le Nouveau Style published in L'Art decoratif in January 1912. He called for classicism, symmetricality and mathematical order in designs, with stylized naturalistic decorative motifs. Vera asserted that decoration should use contrasting rich colors in place of the pale tones of Art Nouveau. Vera rejected internationalism and pastiche and called for respect for French traditions, in particular for the rationalism of the Louis XVI period and the more comfortable Louis-Philippe style. In Vera's view, French design had ceased to innovate in the 1840s, but had resorted to pastiche, the start of a long decline. He wrote in 1912, "It is therefore from the Louis-Philippe style that we can draw the best lesson, especially when one considers that the point is not to repeat it but rather to continue it."
The Vera brothers joined with other artists to create L'Atalier Francais, a cooperative business that borrowed organizational idea from the Wiener Werkstatte. The other members included Louis Sue, Roger de La Fresnaye, Andre Groult, Gustave Louis Jaulmes (1873–1959) and Andre Mare (1885–1932). Andre Vera wrote a manifesto that defined the goal of the group as combining traditional and modern ideas to bring clarity, order and aesthetic unity to interior design. Vera joined the Compagnie des Arts Francais, which succeeded the Atalier Francais after World War I (1914–18). He wrote that it, "would have no truck with either the English or the Dutch, but [continued] the French tradition, working in such a way that this new style will be the heir to the last traditional style that we have had, that is, the style Louis-Philippe."
The Vera brothers collaborated on formal, geometric garden designs in Art Deco style. They acknowledged the influence of the landscape architect Andre Le Notre (1613–1700) and the great terrace of the Chateau de Saint-Germain-en-Laye that he designed. Responding in 1912 to a survey of views about Le Notre's work, Vera wrote, "We share a liking for the regular garden (jardin regulier). Does it proceed from the lightness of our character or from the gravity of our minds? It surges, rather, from the very nature of the French people." Garden designers in Germany, Britain and the United States during that period were trying to develop distinctive national styles. Vera wanted to design truly French gardens.
In 1912 Andre and Paul Vera published Le nouveau jardin, with 35 full-page woodblock illustrations and with woodcut designs by Paul Vera on the cover and on the headpiece and tailpiece. The prints give the impression of a handcrafted book. The first two chapters cover Andre Vera's theories of modern garden design. Later chapters give layouts and descriptions of gardens in rustic, rose-trellised or fantastic style. There are chapters on bee-keeping, cultivation of fruit and ornaments in gardens. The designs were very different from the curvilinear Art Nouveau designs typical of the period, but were aligned with aesthetic views of Le Corbusier, the architect of the machine age. Vera's gardens had a geometrical layout with orthogonal axes, with the lines and pure forms of the composition were emphasized by trees, flower beds and hedges.
Les Jardins (1919) further defined the "regular" modern garden. The American landscape architect Fletcher Steele found that Vera's book "of cubist-dada influence" was "decidedly worthwhile", but mainly due to "the droll woodcuts by M. Paul Vera with which they are illustrated." Steele dismissed Vera's innovations on the basis that he "seems to glorify the curious and original rather than the beautiful." Vera criticized the historical revival of Achille Duchene. He also felt that the imitation of nature in landscape gardens was artificial. He asserted that garden designs had to be based on the laws of mathematics and geometry, using the golden section and simple forms such as squares and triangles. In 1920 Vera designed a garden for his house in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, working with his brother Paul. The rigidly symmetrical and geometrical design combined classical and modern elements, using topiary, vegetation carefully selected for its colors, and new materials such as reinforced concrete.
Vera's 1950 L'homme at le jardin described past and present gardens, and asserted that the love of gardens was a sign of culture. In the 1950s he was still advocating the French jardin regulier.
In 1937 Vera called for "ruralism", creation and protection of national parks and forests, which he felt was equal in importance to urbanism. In his article Nature et urbanisme, published just before World War II (1939–45) he said that it was crucially important to integrate vegetation into town plans. Vera linked man's severance from nature to a fall in physical fitness and a rise in crime and insanity. He recommended preserving sites such as Le Notre's terrace at Saint-Germaine-en-Laye, and recreating "incomplete landscapes" that industry had "mutilated" to make continuous green flows spanning several suburban areas. Trees should be part of the urban design, in mass or in isolation, treated as architectural elements and protected against construction. They would help improve the physical and moral state of the town dwellers.
During the war Vera supported Marshal Petain's Vichy government, which he saw as an opportunity to eliminate the "negative style" that had developed in the 1930s, and to renew morals, arts and crafts. He thought urban planners should think less about circulation and more about houses and towns. They should think of the elements of a town – squares, buildings, trees, sculptures and so on – in elevation as well as in plan. He cited the perspective designs of Sebastiano Serlio. Vera disliked the specialization of professions such as engineer and architect, preferring the Renaissance concept of an architect as the master of both gardens and cities.
In his 1941 Manifeste pour le renouveau de l'art francais Vera recommended chosing trees and shrubs that were native to the region to show affection to the province, rather than exotics such as Cedar of Lebanon or catalpa. After the devastation of French cities in the war Vera saw an opportunity to plan and rebuild cities designed for modern lifestyles. He wrote an article on this subject in Opportunite de l'urbanisme in Urbanisme (Paris, 1945). In the event, most of the rebuilt cities showed little innovation in their plans.