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A Primer To Miami Beach Art Deco Architecture

By Jesse Henson

Miami Beach, Florida is the world’s most concentrated site of Art Deco architecture from the 1920s and 1930s. In addition to this architecture, the region also includes a variety of other architectural movements as well but the influence of Art Deco is strong even in those buildings constructed during later architectural periods.

The 1920s and 1930s saw the arrival of the Art Deco movement in Miami Beach. During the late 20s and early 30s, the architecture in Miami Beach was frequently mixed, featuring characteristics of the Mediterranean Revival movement and Art Deco.

The Mediterranean Revival movement preceded the Art Deco period, and the styles and structures commonly used in the Mediterranean Revival blended with Art Deco to create what is known as Med-Deco. These hybrid styles created unique buildings featuring more traditional, striking architectural elements mixed with clean and clear lines, geometric structures, and spectacular facades.

The exterior of most buildings constructed during the Med-Deco period are made from smooth stucco. These stucco exteriors frequently featured raised details or designs that make the remaining buildings from the period among some of the most incredible architecture in the world.

Art Deco is a movement that broke from traditional revival architectural styles. It was strongly influenced by the 1925 Paris Exposition of Decorative Art and Industrial Models. The exposition was a fair that celebrated the merging of the decorative arts with contemporary industrial and technological advancements.

Art Deco architecture featured clean and clear design lines, angular structures, and stepped facades. These buildings often included artistic renderings, with designs and decorative patterns surrounding key building features. The inclusion of decorative geometric patterns, industrial symbols, and ancient and culturally significant images was not uncommon.

Miami Beach architecture played on many of the Art Deco themes. A unique form of the movement arose in Ocean Beach, and featured nautical themes and tropical plant and animal images. The decorative elements of the Ocean Beach buildings incorporated bas-relief stucco, metals, terrazzo and etched glass. These elements have grown to include numerous materials and creative applications of those materials. They are the building blocks of what makes Miami Beach Art Deco what it is.

Painted wall murals and simple but stunning glass blocks are common elements found in the beautiful Miami Beach Art Deco District. The district spans a square mile in the city, and encompasses more than 1,000 buildings that are true to the Art Deco methods of the 1920s and 1930s.

The Art Deco styles of the early 1920s were originally called Zig Zag Moderne. They were followed in the 1930s by the Streamlined Moderne period. Both movements are part of the larger Art Deco period, and the styles of both entwine to create the uniqueness of the Miami Beach Art Deco District.

The designs of Art Deco include vibrant and extravagant decorations, with color schemes far exceeding the previously acceptable standards for architectural elements. Eclectic ornamentation is another strong feature among the Art Deco architecture of the original movement. These buildings frequently included images, artwork, and decorative design features that mixed periods and culture to create a truly unique and striking space. Ancient designs were placed amongst modern technology, merging the past and present in a method that still catches the eye today.

Art Deco hotels line the streets of Miami Beach, with Ocean Drive being one of the most frequently visited areas of the Art Deco District. Various businesses throughout Miami Beach feature elements of the Art Deco movement. Even those that incorporate later design styles gleam with the influences of Art Deco. Residential homes in the region also feature Art Deco design.

The Art Deco District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, as it features the largest collection of Art Deco architecture the world over. There are hundreds of buildings, including hotels, businesses, residential apartment structures, and other facilities all constructed between 1923 and 1943, when Art Deco was the height of contemporary style and design.

Miami Beach recognized the treasure it holds with the Art Deco District and hosts an annual weekend festival in celebration of the Art Deco architecture that makes the area so unique. The Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL) is dedicated to preserving and promoting the cultural and social significance of the area. MDPL came into existence in 1976 and has since worked diligently to protect the historical region.

Guided tours of the Art Deco District are available year-round from MDPL. The festival held each year to celebrate the district and its contribution to the culture, economy, and history of Miami Beach takes place in early January. is an online travel company determined and dedicated to becoming the leader in providing travelers with the most intuitive online booking experience full of relevant information, helpful guides and travel tips. Find great deals on miami beach hotels at!

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Henson, Jesse "A Primer To Miami Beach Art Deco Architecture." A Primer To Miami Beach Art Deco Architecture. 2 Jul. 2010. 7 Aug 2014 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Henson, J (2010, July 2). A Primer To Miami Beach Art Deco Architecture. Retrieved August 7, 2014, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Henson, Jesse "A Primer To Miami Beach Art Deco Architecture"

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