Miami means white sandy beaches, sumptuous cuisine, great eye candy and pretty pastel Art Deco buildings lining the beach.
During this year’s Art Deco Weekend, Curt and I were invited to join the Art Deco Tour arranged by The Greater Miami Convention and Visitor Bureau and given by the Miami Design Preservation Team . After very little deliberation, we thought, why not? After all, it’s always good to learn something new and it would make for some great photo ops! What we soon realized is how much we didn’t know (ok, we honestly knew nothing) about this very interesting period in history!
So here’s the abridged version. Art Deco is a style of architecture that made its mark during the 1920-1930’s. It was first introduced at an Expo in Paris in 1925. There was excitement all over the world about this new, modern and sleek style. Miami Beach developers couldn’t build hotels in this motif fast enough. The feeling was, “If we build them, they will come.” Buildings were literally popping up on every street corner. Tourism was strong and snowbirds were flocking to Miami Beach for a little rest and relaxation.
Thanks to Barbara Capitman , who was instrumental in the founding of the Miami Design Preservation League in 1976, Miami Beaches’s Art Deco District is still alive and vibrant today. She worked relentlessly to preserve these buildings and create an appreciation for Art Deco architecture nationwide. The mile square-wide district is now registered in the National Register of Historic Places.
When you think about Art Deco architecture, visualize a Tic Tac Toe board with nine squares. Most buildings follow the rule of three. Simply put, they have three sets of windows across, three panels across and are three stories high. You will notice that there are “eyebrows” over some windows to block out the sun and provide shade. Ever wonder why the buildings are only three stories high? Well, I’ve got the answer! It’s because four stories and higher required an elevator and since they were building fast and furiously there was no time for that.
The style was clean, new, modern, stream-lined and made with a machine. It meant straight lines and smooth surfaces. Cruising was very popular amongst the rich and famous and anything nautical made people feel wealthy. You will notice that many of the buildings were designed to resemble a boat with porthole windows and ship like railings. Speaking of resembling a ship, these hotel rooms were designed just like staterooms on a ship. They were very small with just enough space for a night table and bed. The feeling back then was that the room was only meant to be used for sleeping. Wow, how times have changed!
The Art Deco Tour is given by The Miami Design Preservation Team. Our tour guide was a very well-informed volunteer. The 90 minute walking tour takes you both in and out of buildings and provides you with a very interesting overview of the period. We were amazed by what we learned. If you have the time, the tour is worth taking.
Know if you go
- The tour is a walking tour, be sure to wear comfortable shoes.
- Bring water, even in the winter it can be hot in South Florida.
- You can make your reservation in advance or at the Art Deco Welcome Center up to 15 minutes before the tour begins.
- The guides are volunteers and are happy to accept tips!