One of the neatest things about staying in South Beach was that the area’s famed Art Deco buildings were literally everywhere. It wasn’t an instance where you had to search them out; instead, simply walking down Ocean Drive or Collins Avenue meant that you would pass by scores of them.
For anyone in need of a refresher, Art Deco is a prominent visual arts design style that first appeared in France following World War I and took off on an international level in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s before its popularity diminished after World War II. While you can find Art Deco buildings all over the world today, it is in the Miami Beach neighborhood of South Beach that is most famous and recognizable for this particular style.
Miami Beach’s Art Deco District is the first 20th-century neighborhood to be recognized by the National Register of Historic Places and features 800 structures of major historical significance, the majority having been built between 1923 and 1943. These famous pastel buildings feature everything from porthole windows, to ship-like railings (many of the structures were built to resemble cruise ships, a popular form of transportation at the height of the Art Deco’s popularity), sleek curves, glass blocks, and terrazzo tile.
Although Miami Beach became somewhat dangerous and rundown in the 1980s with many of the Art Deco buildings in disrepair , thankfully due to the efforts of concerned local citizens, Miami Beach’s Art Deco neighborhood was saved. Fortunately, it didn’t end up suffering a fate that befalls many other historic neighborhoods (i.e. historic buildings are torn down and quickly forgotten about). While there are still structures there that are in need of a major “facelift,” you can still easily imagine them in their former glory. South Beach is very much an area that meshes the modern era with the past, the past of course being the 1920s, 30s, and 40s.
From today’s standards the Art Deco style may not look like that much or even that cutting edge, but at the time it was popular, believe me, it was atypical.
Please note: Unfortunately for my blog, Miami Beach’s weather was also atypical the weekend I visited (i.e. the bleak looking gray skies in the background)