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Miami Art Deco
May 6 , 2011
You'll hear the term 'art deco' a lot in Miami. The locals all seem intimately familiar with the term, and visitors seem to be on a constant question for all that is art deco. Before you start asking around, here are the basic facts you need to know about Miami art deco.
Art deco is an architectural style that is pervasive in Miami. If you've ever watched an episode of Miami Vice, you'll remember the buildings painted in bright pastels. These buildings are typical of Miami art deco. While it feels modern in design (or staunchly retro, depending on your viewpoint), art deco itself dates back to Egyptian influences. It went through a renaissance during the 1920s, around the time that Miami Beach was transformed from swampland to a tourist destination. The en vogue style was employed to attract hip visitors, and Miami art deco has remained an icon to this day.
So what does that mean for you? Because Miami art deco is such an important architectural style, you might as well spend a day (or even just an afternoon if you're short on time) checking out the best examples of it.
Art Deco District
You'll find great art deco work in various parts of the city, and none will be better than those of the fittingly named Art Deco District. Miami Beach's Art Deco District is on the prestigious National Register of Historic Places and it is an impressive collection of apartments, hotels, and other buildings that were constructed from the 1920s through the 1940s.
You'll find the best examples of Miami art deco on four particular streets – Washington Avenue, Ocean Drive, and Collins Avenue, and Lincoln Road. If you want, you can simply grab a map and set out to explore the brightly colored hotels and buildings that populate these locations. You're guaranteed to get a healthy dose of all that is Miami art deco.
But if you want a more structured tour of the area, consult the Miami Design Preservation League for information on its various tours. You can opt for its self-guided audio tour, which costs $15 per person, and will take you on an educational tour all over the district. There are also guided tours, which typically last around 90 minutes and cost $20. Either option is excellent.
The Best Examples of Art Deco
The two best examples of Miami art deco are Essex House on Collins Avenue and Colony Hotel on Ocean Drive. The Essex House was built in 1938, and it is well known as an example of many art deco elements. Today it looks decidedly retro, with porthole windows, clean and bright paint, and neon signs strong enough to blind just about anyone.
The Colony Hotel was built just three years earlier, and it too is a seminal example of Miami art deco design. It is fairly simple in design, with an upside-down 'T' shaped neon sign and pink, blue, green, and white paint. A description of the building doesn't do it justice, and laying eyes upon it will reveal just how classic its aesthetics are.
While you should be sure to experience Miami art deco in the daytime, you also shouldn't miss checking out the buildings at night. In what has become true Miami fashion, many buildings are decked out in excessively bright neon lights and signs. Driving through the Art Deco District in a convertible with the top down might be enough to convince you that you're headed to an '80s era club. If that's your kind of thing.
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