South Beach Miami Art Deco Architecture

Monday, 14 April 2014

art deco tourThe Miami Design Preservation League at 1001 Ocean Drive in South Beach, Miami, puts on daily Art Deco Architecture walking tours of the Art Deco district of Miami Beach. The tours kick-off at 1030 am daily, there’s no need to pre-book, they cost A$20 and last 90 minutes. There’s an excellent art deco-inspired gift shop at that starting point.

IMG_4598 - The Carlyle, South Beach, Miami 271




By the time you’ve finished the walk you’ll recognise all the art deco clues, the vertical elements, the symmetry, the eyebrows over the windows, portholes and corner windows to catch the breezes. South Beach survived redevelopment because for a spell it was so out of favour: no air-conditioning, no lifts. And then it was so stylish: Miami Vice, Versace.

What I particularly liked about the walk was you didn’t just stand outside and admire the building – although there’s plenty to admire. This is The Carlyle at 1250 Ocean Drive. It features in The Birdcage. ►


IMG_4576 - lobby, The Essex, South Beach, Miami 542▲ You also wander in to check the equally interesting interiors. This is the lobby of The Essex at 1001 Collins Ave, just a block back from Ocean Drive. The aeronautically themed lobby décor may look very art-deco, but in fact it’s a recent addition, from an art exhibit in Miami.

IMG_4589 - turtle shells, lobby bar, The Tides, South Beach, Miami 542The Tides at 1220 Ocean Drive features this lineup of turtle shells in the lobby, fortunately they’re resin copies, not original turtles. The lobby also features an extravagant all-gold nautical bar.

IMG_4604 - The Cavalier, Ocean Drive, South Beach, Miami 271The Cavalier at 1320 Ocean Drive has all the authentic art deco design elements, but the colour scheme is more Miami Vice than art deco. The colours were originally much more restrained.

It was the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926 which accounts for South Beach’s standing as the world’s most important art deco district. The hurricane pretty much wiped out South Beach and the whole area was rebuilt at the height of the art deco period. Another great art deco city also owes its architectural integrity to a natural disaster, an earthquake levelled Napier in New Zealand in 1931.