Visit these five icons of architecture, design and décor:
Not many people know that one of the country’s most architecturally significant neighborhoods sprouted from the rubble of a natural disaster, but that’s exactly how Miami Beach’s Art Deco District came to be. Following the ferocious “Great Miami” hurricane in September 1926, the city was in ruins. From the late 20s into the 40s, over 800 buildings were erected in the fashionable new architectural style showcased at the 1925 Paris Exposition Internationale des Artes Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, which was soon christened “Art Deco.” In addition to notable characteristics like mathematical geometrical shapes, porthole windows, ship-like railings, sleek curves, glass blocks, luminous chrome detailing and lustrous terrazzo floors, every building has a story to tell. Each one talks of the dreamers, heroes and gangsters who, after the hurricane had nearly wiped out the local economy, re-shaped a sleepy resort community into an icon of style and design.
Among the nearly 800 Art Deco treasures, we’ve chosen five must-see buildings to check out on your Miami Beach Art Deco tour:
The Cavalier Hotel
Address: 1320 Ocean Drive
More than just decorative flourishes, the façade’s symmetrical stucco panels serve as an example of Art Deco’s “Rule of Three” principle while also drawing the eye upward. The panels’ colors and patterns celebrate the discovery of King Tut’s tomb and the Chichén Itzá temples, which took place during the building’s design.
Address: 1450 Collins Avenue
Architect: Henry Hohauser
When it debuted in 1940 as Hoffman’s Cafeteria, this landmark took modern design to previously unforeseen extremes. In a nod to Art Deco’s streamlined, nautical influence, architect Henry Hohauser took the edge off the style’s box-like geometrical sensibilities with sleek, curving lines and a half-dozen porthole-like circles above either side of the entrance.
Address: 1040 Lincoln Road
If any Miami Beach building can be said to be an “Art Deco gem,” this jewel box is it. Opening as a Paramount Theater in 1935, this still functioning 430-seat theater showcases a meticulously restored façade, marquee and ticket booth and an immaculate terrazzo floor boasting sharp lines and geometric patterns.
Address: 940 Ocean Drive
The majestic, neon blue, orange and white façade of The Breakwater has been lighting up Lummus Park since 1936. Splendidly refurbished in 1999, the hotel’s powerful lines and symmetrical shapes are stylistic staples of the Art Deco aesthetic while the brilliant neon lighting adds a distinctively South Beach flair.
Address: 1424 Ocean Drive
If you are looking for the purest example of South Beach-style Art Deco, this world-famous building is it. From the perfectly proportioned façade, bold lines and windows subscribing to the “Rule of Three” to the pink/turquoise color scheme and highly stylized “McCalpin” sign, it’s easy to see why this is one of the Art Deco district’s most photographed structures. Be sure to look for the “face” in the center of the building, formed by three windows and a series of vertical and horizontal lines.
Address: 2100 Collins Ave.
With its fossilized Paleolithic coral façade and almost fortress-like appearance, the imposing Bass Museum is not as obvious in its Art Deco stylings. Built in 1930 to serve as the Miami Beach Public Library and Arts Center, the main entrance features bas relief carvings, depicting the Spanish conquest of Florida, a pelican with a fish clasped in its beak and cruise ships, yachts and airplanes making the pilgrimage to Miami.