What is Art Deco?

Pastel-colored buildings, tropical motives, sober nautical lines, rounded corners...
Miami Art Deco District Ocean Drive

What is Art Deco? What often comes to mind is images of pastel-colored buildings, tropical motives, sober nautical lines, rounded corners... and yes, this is all art deco.

The Art Deco trend in Miami Beach has evolved over the years and is a mix of modern ideas and tendencies that put together have created a very unique architectural style that "belongs" to the city. It has become a magnet for visitors and is in a way the perfect backdrop for the city's fashion, cuisine, music, art, and photography scene.

Miami's art deco district is the largest concentration of Art Deco buildings in the world, scattered throughout the city and along the beach, it makes for a great walk to discover the many styles and features of this trendy and creative movement.

Miami Art Deco Styles and Main Features

Without going into the technicalities of "Art Deco", here are some examples of typical Art Deco styles found in Miami and the features that abound in these large collection of designs, from elaborate relief decor to simple functional cantilever windows, tropical designs as well as nautical touches reminiscing of the big cruise liners weave well within the relaxed atmosphere that is indeed prevalent in the city.

Pastel-Colored Buildings

Art Deco Building Pastel Colors: Crescent and Mcalpin Hotels

The color palette extends from pastel pinks, yellows, aquas, light blues, greys, salmons... as seen here at the Crescent and McAlpin Hotels on Ocean Drive and 14th Street.

Rounded Corners

Miami Art Deco Rounded Corners: The Cardozo Hotel

Simple lines and rounded corners abound, the Cardozo Hotel on Ocean Drive is a good example.

Tropical Designs

Miami Art Deco Tropical Designs

This is Miami after all... Tropical accents won't be hard to find...

Surface Relief Decor

Relief designs decorate the fronts of many buildings. The designs vary from the very intricate to the simple and stylish, some blend right into the design of the building and some are very prominently displayed with contrasting colors and textures. Here are some great examples:

Classic Art Deco reliefs: The Cavalier

The Cavalier Hotel on Ocean Drive and 13th Street still shows off its original exterior facade from the 1930s

Classic Art Deco reliefs: The Carlyle

Also on Ocean Drive, the Carlyle's relief motifs blend right into the simple lines of the building, the facade remains virtually unchanged from the original hotel erected in 1939.

Streamlined Art Deco: Nautical Motifs

A more simplistic approach free of elaborate decoration, use of simple banding or stripes, guard rails and rounded corners, porthole and functional cantilever windows are all to be seen throughout.

Miami Art Deco Nautical Motif

...At the Beach Patrol's Headquarters Building...

Miami Art Deco Nautical Motif at Congress Hotel

...At the Congress Hotel on Ocean Drive...

Shade "Eyebrows" and Finials

"Eyebrows" are the shades over the windows which can be found in many of the buildings. Finial Spires can be seen crowning some of the corner structures. These are some examples:

Miami Art Deco eyebrows at the Winterhaven

..."Eyebrows" at the Winterhaven...

Miami Art Deco Finial Spire at The Hotel

...Finials can be found at The Hotel of South Beach on Collins and 8th here pictured, and Essex House a couple of blocks north...

Art Deco Materials: Glass Block, Aluminum, Chrome, Neon Lighting

Also common denominators throughout is the use of glass block, aluminum, chrome and neon lighting, which are characteristic of the Art Deco period.

Miami Art Deco Glass Block at the Post Office

...Glass Block at the Miami Beach Post Office Building...

Neon Lighting: Beacon, Colony Hotels on Ocean Drive

...Neon lighting all along Ocean Drive...

Tropical Designs

Miami Art Deco Tropical Designs

This is Miami after all... Tropical accents won't be hard to find...

Miami Art Deco Pink Police Car

Even the Miami Beach Police gets in the art deco action...

Miami Art Deco Tropical Parking Meters

The Parking Meters...

Miami Art Deco Lifeguard Tower on 72nd Street

And don't forget our funky lifeguard towers dotted throughout the beaches!

So What Is Art Deco? You know now what to look for! Glass block, "Eyebrows", porthole windows, symetric lines, beautiful relief decor, rounded corners, cruise-ship-inspired motifs, aluminum and chrome, finial spires...

It's time to visit the Art Deco District, your main starting point is of course the Art Deco Welcome Center right in the heart of it. Check out some of the recommended walking tours, or if you prefer, you can also explore by bike or segway...

South Beach and Art Deco

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