To stroll along Ocean Drive, Collins Ave. or down Lincoln Road may momentarily give off the impression of being back in The Old Continent, this is no wonder thanks to the Mediterranean flair brought to Miami from Europe, a flair that came to stay: the Art Deco movement.
Around 800 structures, whose origins date back to the ‘20s and the ‘40s, are still worth sightseeing and their best emblems are admired by thousands of tourists visiting them every year in South Beach. Among those structures are the hotels Breakwater, Carlyle, Savoy Plaza, and Delano, as well as buildings such as The Sterling and The Webster, which really stand out with their colorful neon lights, a common hallmark of Art Deco.
Thirty blocks of hotels and residential buildings comprise what today is considered the biggest collection of Art Deco buildings in the world.
The Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL) accounts for the maintenance and advertising of the buildings. The MDPL was originally organized in 1976 by Barbara Capitman and friends; it is the oldest specialized Art Deco Society to date.
The Origins of Art Deco
What we know nowadays as Art Deco refers to the visual arts design style that appeared in the first decades of the 20th century, though its major heyday took place during the ‘20s. Art Deco emerged in Paris from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes that was held in that city, hence the name Art Deco; yet, the style spread to several countries across Europe as well as the United States and some other South American countries. We can find Art Deco works both in painting and sculpture but mostly in architecture and they all may be pigeonholed as modern art.
The second stage of Art Deco is known as Streamline Moderne—which began with the Wall Street Crash of 1929 or Black Tuesday (October 29) and the Great Depression that ensued thereafter—and became the trend that permeated Miami Beach with a less embellished, more sober style that was inspired on aerodynamic principles typical of the so called Machine Age.
Characteristics of Art Deco
Deco has geometric forms and smooth and straight lines as defining artistic elements; it is neither as exuberant nor as overblown as Art Noveau since Deco emerged from an interwar period (World War I and World War II), whose sociopolitical context was much more complex due to a rapid industrialization.
When it comes to depicting lines and geometric shapes, the more straightforward and accurate, the better they are. Among these geometric shapes, oblique lines, circles, round arches, rounded tips, triangles and straight lines are all commonly used. Even so, Art Deco turned out to be really remarkable, since it allowed the underlying shapes beneath the decoration to be observed.
Some other clear examples of artistic works belonging to Art Deco at other latitudes are the skyscraper Chrysler Building in New York, the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, California, and the Kavanagh Building in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Miami’s Art Deco Historic District Walking Tour
With this ninety-minute walking tour you will enjoy a guided visit to discover more about the Art Deco movement. Explore hotels, restaurants, and other commercial buildings in order to understand the architectural history of Miami.
All tours organized by the Miami Design Preservation League are $25.00 or $20.00 for seniors, veterans and students.
Tours depart from the Art Deco Welcome Center (1001 Ocean Drive – 10th Street & Ocean Drive) every day from Monday through Sunday starting at 10:30 am while on Thursdays there is a second session at 6:30 pm.
You can directly arrive at the meeting point (Art Deco Welcome Center) to take the tour or you can purchase your tickets in advance online.