A Guide to Miami's Art Deco Architecture

Art deco buildings
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With the most Art Deco buildings in the world, Miami is a pretty exciting place for architecture buffs. But even if you’re not super into design, you’ll still be in awe of the bold and brightly-colored 1920s and 1930s buildings that still stand today, mostly in the South Beach and Miami Beach areas of South Florida. Here's what to know about these Art Deco beauties and where to see them.

History

What began in Paris made its way very quickly to the Sunshine State and more specifically, Miami. With more than 800 structures built between 1923 and 1943, Miami Beach is the first 20th-century city recognized by the National Register of Historic Places. A visual playground for photographers and storytellers, Miami is bursting with pastel colors that—against a blue sky backdrop and palm trees—set the scene for classic shows and movies that’ll set you back in time to when everything was just a little more glamorous.

Hallmarks of Art Deco Style

Also referred to as just “Deco” and known, less commonly, as “style moderne,” Art Deco made its way from Europe to the United States around 100 years ago. You can spot an Art Deco building from a mile away, characterized by its geometric shapes, bright colors, and styles, a jumble of various design types including Cubism and Fauvism. Not only does Art Deco refer to architecture, but also furniture, jewelry, fashion, cars, and even trains.

Young Couple, South Beach, Miami, Florida, USA
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The Carlyle

Built in 1939 and designed by German architect Richard Kiehnel, Miami's Carlyle Hotel is mostly famous because it’s made cameos in a number of films ("Scarface," "Bad Boys 2," "The Birdcage," and more) and it’s never been restored or renovated like many of the Art Deco structures nearby. It stands in its original form (with its unique charm) and is just a stone’s throw from the Versace Mansion, another captivating building worth taking in.

Miami Post Office
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The Miami Beach U.S. Post Office

A 1937 beauty designed by architect Howard Lovewell Cheney, this building is characterized by a prominent round front and an eagle statue that sits above the doorway. The rest of the building is all straight edges, a white facade that falls into the Depression Moderne category. Step inside to view a fountain, a starburst ceiling, and brass mailboxes. Lots of natural light filters into the Miami Beach Post Office through the glass-panel door, and there’s also a three-paneled mural on display from 1941 by artist Charles Hardman.

Webster Hotel, Collins Avenue, Miami Beach - Art deco splendor
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The Webster

This three-story Miami Beach building is also sliced into thirds and houses a high-end boutique and a dreamy rooftop deck. If you plan to shop here, you’ll spend a pretty penny, but this shop sells the best of the best in the city. Even if you’re not shopping, snap some pics of the pastel-colored decor, the signature terrazzo floors, and the statement-making staircases. It won’t hurt to try on a couple of things, though. Getting glammed up is one way to be transported back to the 1930s for sure.

Miami Beach, Bass Museum of Art - Florida (US)
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The Bass Museum

Originally built by architect Russell Pancoast for the Miami Beach Public Library and Arts Center, the Bass Museum’s exterior is made of gorgeous fossilized Paleolithic coral and is decorated with nautical-inspired carvings by Gustav Boland. Open daily (except Monday and Tuesday) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and with complimentary tours offered on the weekend, the Bass Museum is a great place to discover and fall in love with contemporary art.

Famous Colony Art Deco Theater in Lincoln Road, South Beach, Miami
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Colony Theater

If you’re doing a little Lincoln Road shopping, be sure to take a look at the Colony Theatre, a stunning white building (with a black and white striped awning) which was built in 1935 and designed by architect RA Benjamin, restored in 1976 and then again not too long ago. Catch a show here—you have dance, film, concerts and even the opera to choose from.

Delano Hotel Art Deco Landmark Building South Beach Miami Florida
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The Delano

This luxury boutique hotel is the perfect place to kick back and relax while still being able to time travel to Miami’s fabulous Art Deco past. Built in 1947, the Delano boasts a great pool, complete with poolside cabanas, flowy white curtains, and those timeless palm trees. A stay at the Delano isn’t cheap, but you can always stop into the hotel’s Rose Bar for a cocktail or a glass of wine and live like the rich and famous, even if just for an hour.

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