Page C1.1 . 30 October 2002                     
ArchitectureWeek - Culture Department
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Art Deco South Beach

by Steven Allan

The historic "art deco" district of South Beach, in Miami, Florida, is arguably one of the most successful urban restoration projects in the history of American architecture. Hundreds of buildings have been restored to their early 20th-century appearance.

South Beach was at the heart of an economic boom in the "Roaring Twenties," when rich families looked for a new way to spend their money on holiday destinations. They embraced "modern" architecture with the same passion as they did modern technologies such as automobiles and radios. To accommodate these visitors, Miami built a compact neighborhood in a style described as linking modernism and consumerism.

The art deco movement drew inspiration from the modern art movements, particularly the concept of multiple points of view of cubism, and the themes of machines and motion in futurism. Art deco also tried to hint at other art forms, like jazz and swing music and the dance fashions of the era.

Although it was similar in context and emphasis to the decorative style of "art nouveau," a stronger connection to modernism distinguished art deco. Unlike art nouveau, it emphasized a functional design based on logic and geometry.   >>>



ArchWeek Image

The Colony Hotel on Ocean Drive, in South Beach, with its banded stripes, is one of Miami's many preserved buildings from the early 20th century.
Photo: Steven Allan

ArchWeek Image

The Essex Hotel with its nautical, rounded corners and glaring tower is from the late 1930s to early 40s "streamline" period.
Photo: Steven Allan


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