The Art Deco District in Miami Beach contains the largest concentration
of 1920s and 1930s resort architecture in the world.
These vibrantly colored buildings represent an era when Miami
was heavily promoted and developed as a "tropical playground."
The Art Deco District was one of the earliest National Register
listings to recognize the importance of the architecture of
(continue reading: South
Beach Art Deco Tours).
Vernacular is not a style, but rather a common method of early
construction in South Florida. The materials and forms encompassed
wood frame and masonry construction. These materials and methods
were transferred from abroad with the Beach's early settlers.
Through time, many of these structures were replaced.
Wood Frame construction was most evident in the earliest days
of Ocean Beach and reflected a secluded resort-like character.
Noted for stark simplicity, vernacular structures are usually
rectilinear in form with little or no elaboration. Functional
elements supply the only elaboration or decoration except
that occasionally modest Classical elements were referenced
such as the engaged pilasters that were seen on the Atlantic
Hotel at 112 Ocean Drive, built in 1915. Most are one and
two stories in height with flat, gable or hipped roof and
a single story porch extending across the front.
Style: 1910's - 1930's
Bungalows were a popular
in Ocean Beach from the earliest development years through
the 1930s. Many of these simple structures may have been constructed
from mail order house plans gotten from catalogues, but others
were designed by local architects as distinguished as V. H.
Typically, bungalows were of wood frame construction, one to
one and a half stories in height, with gable roofs, overhanging
eaves, front porches , and large wood sash windows. They afforded
good cross ventilation, a shaded outdoor area, and adapted well
to South Florida coastal conditions, generally being elevated
two to three feet above grade on foundation walls or masonry
Revival Style: 1910's - 1930's
Mediterranean Revival architecture
was the "style of choice" for the first major boom
period in Ocean Beach. It's connotation of Mediterranean resort
architecture, combining expressions of Italian, Moorish, North
African and Southern Spanish themes, was found to be an appropriate
and commercially appealing image for the new Floridian seaside
During the mid 1910s through the early 1930s the style was
applied to hotels, apartment buildings, commercial structures,
and even modest residences. Its architectural vocabulary was
characterized by stucco walls, low pitched terra cotta and
historic Cuban tile roofs, arches, scrolled or tile capped
parapet walls and articulated door surrounds, sometimes utilizing
Spanish Baroque decorative motifs and Classical elements.
Feature detailing was occasionally executed in keystone.
Revival - Art Deco Transitional: 1920's
Ocean Beach was a synthesis of Mediterranean Revival form
and A Art Deco decorative detail. This unique hybrid style
became a fascinating bridge between the "familiar"
and the "new" as the allure of Art Deco found its
way into the Beach's architectural vocabulary. Clean ziggurat
roof lines and crisp geometric detailing replaced scrolled
parapets, bracketed cornices and Classical features on structures
of clear Mediterranean Revival form. Likewise, sloped barrel
tile roofs rested gracefully on edifices with spectacular
Art Deco entrances and facade treatments.
Some of the most celebrated architects in Miami Beach designed
structures in this brief-lived style, including V. H. Nellenbogen,
Henry Hohauser and T. Hunter Henderson.
The predominant exterior material of Med-Deco was smooth stucco
with raised o r incised details. Featured stucco areas were
often patterned or scored. Keystone, either natural or filled
and colored, was frequently used to define special elements.
Windows ranged from wood and steel casement to wood double
Deco Style: late 1920's - 1930's
Art Deco is considered
one of the first twentieth century architectural styles in
America to break with traditional revival forms. It emanated
largely from the impact of the 1925 Paris Exposition des Arts
Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes, a design fair celebrating
the reconciliation between the decorative arts and advancements
in technology and industry.
Building forms in the Art Deco style were typically angular
and clean, with stepped back facades, symmetrical or asymmetrical
massing and strong vertical accenting. The preferred decorative
language included geometric patterns, abstracted natural forms,
modern industrial symbols and ancient cultural motifs employing
Mayan, Egyptian and Indigenous American themes.
In Ocean Beach a unique form of Art Deco employed nautical
themes as well as tropical floral and fauna motifs. Ocean
liners, palm trees, and flamingos graced the exteriors and
interiors of the new local architecture. The favored materials
for executing this distinctive "art" decor included
bas-relief stucco, keystone, etched glass, a variety of metals,
cast concrete, patterned terrazzo, and others. Today this
distinctive design vocabulary, which further incorporated
glass block, vitrolite and stunning painted wall murals, has
become the hallmark of Miami Beach's internationally recognized
Art Deco gems.
Style - Streamline Moderne: 1930's-1940
As "Art Deco"
evolved on the Beach in the 1930s modern transportation and
industrial design began to have an even greater impact upon
new construction. The "streamlined" character of
automobiles, airplanes, trains, buses, liners and even home
appliances inspired powerful horizontal design compositions,
accentuated by striking vertical features and punctuated by
icons of the technological era. Continuous "eyebrows",
racing stripe banding, radio tower-like spires, portholes,
and deck railings like those found on grand ocean liners,
were among the unique features to set this architecture apart
from anything before it. The creative incorporation of nautical
themes showed this form of Art Deco to be true to its origins
in Miami Beach.
Smooth, rounded corners often replaced sharp ones on Moderne
buildings, especially on corner lots. "Eyebrows"
swept around them as did other details. Street corners became
inviting architectural focal points, whether the special treatment
employed was based upon curves or angles.
War Transitional Art Deco - Post War Deco: 1960
Post War Deco drew significantly
from the form and decorative vocabulary of both early Art
Deco in Miami Beach and Moderne. Although single block massing
was predominant the emphasis could be placed on either horizontal
or vertical composition, dependent upon the size of the structure,
the character of the site, and the will of the architect.
Frequently, continuous us of eyebrows would be extended to
form side or front canopies, either cantilevered or supported
on their furthest edge by columns. New decorative materials
were introduced which reflected changing tastes nationally,
including brick, permastone, and cast architectural block
in a variety of "open" patterns. Many of these delightful
structures in Ocean Beach paid wonderful tribute to their
architectural origins while effectively addressing changing
World War II Modern Style - Post War Modern: 1965
The Post War Modern style in Miami Beach exhibited
many elements of its companion style of the period, Post War
Deco, but clearly established a path of its own in terms of
modern functional simplicity.
Floor plans were commonly reorganized from interior double
loaded corridors to "open air" verandas on one side
or more. Overhanging roof plates and projecting floor slabs
became typical of the new "style" along with paired
or clustered pipe columns to support them. Symmetrical staircases
became significant exterior design features.
Additional design elements and materials were added to the
architectural vocabulary, including rounded eaves, rock face
feature areas, cast concrete decorative panels, and applied
masonry elements denoting marine and nautical themes, such
as seahorses and anchors.
1920's - 1950's
Eclectic architecture in Miami Beach includes buildings
which adopt the style(s) of another time and/or another place
selected by the architect, at will, for a purpose. Henry Hohauser's
fanciful English Tudor style cottage located at 321 Collins
Avenue is an amazing example of Eclectic architecture in Miami
Beach. Its sharp gable roofs, half-frame (exposed) timbers,
and Gothic window lintel details are clearly not a part of
the natural architectural progression on the Beach, but yet
they command the desired attention and assure a special place.
Garden Style: 1940's - 1960's
The primary defining characteristic of the Garden
Style in Miami Beach is that the entryway and public walkways
are placed on the exterior, where they are open to the natural
elements and surround a common garden area. A large central
front entry leads to an open symmetrical staircase, ascending
to the upper level(s), and behind it the courtyard. The plan
is "U" shape and basically consists of two identical
two to three story buildings facing onto a shared central
garden/courtyard, often with a fountain in the center, and
joined at the rear. Visually and structurally the buildings
are united by a grand low pitched gable roof (typically) extending
like gull wings across the front and over the open central
entryway. The roof plate usually overhangs open walkways below
and may be conclude in a rounded eave characteristic of late
1950s modern architecture in Miami Beach.
Architectural ornamentation is generally modest and minimal
in the Garden Style, normally consisting of cantilevered balconies
with ornamental pierced block railings, and sometimes exuberantly
detailed wrought iron rails on stairs and along open walkways.
In providing a large central open entry and situating the apartment
units facing inward on a common garden area, this important
modern building style in Ocean Beach provides a sense of community
facilitating greater social interaction and security or its