Home to more than 800 Art Deco buildings, Miami’s glamorous South Beach is an architectural goldmine of 1930s pastel-colored gems. Its historic Art Deco District is all contained within just one square mile, so it’s easy to explore, too.
A neon-lit beacon of South Beach, The Breakwater’s protruding electric-blue sign lights up the Miami night sky and can be seen from almost anywhere in Lummus Park. A much-loved icon of the neighborhood, The Breakwater was designed in 1936 by Yugoslavian architect Anton Skiskewicz, and sports clean, colorful lines and the archetypal symmetry emblematic of the Art Deco period. The 99-room boutique hotel was extensively renovated in 2011, restoring The Breakwater to its former glory.
Essex House is a great example of Nautical Moderne and another masterpiece by Floridian architect Henry Hohauser. With a prow that seems poised to set sail on the corner of Collins Avenue and 10th Street and a smokestack-style neon sign above, the 1938 building was designed to resemble a landlocked ocean liner. The natty racing stripes that wrap around the building also continue inside the lobby, while a rare mural painted by Earl LaPan sits over the original fireplace. Lapan worked on more than 300 paintings across South Florida, but many of his works were sadly removed or painted over. This one was restored by LaPan himself in the 1980s – it’s rumoured he added an alligator to the painting in the upper left-hand corner.
This three-story building has had many incarnations, most famously as Chris Blackwell’s South Beach Studios in the 1980s, which attracted A-list talent such as Bob Marley and Aerosmith. The 1939 building was designed by another notable architect of the era, L Murray Dixon, and features his trademark ‘eyebrows’ over the windows. The Marlin has recently had a multimillion-dollar makeover, with 33 boutique rooms and suites available.