April 25, 2020
Architecture in Miami
Miami is a peace of paradise and the most popular vacation spot on the map of the globe. Moreover, it is an interesting place that represents the rich historical heritage of the region and the life of immigrants that have arrived from the different parts of the world. That influence is reflected in a mixed architectural ensemble of Miami. The general composition of the city is quite restrained in spite of multiple architectural styles. The visitors can be surprised by the controversial consonant design of the place. Exotic conch houses with balustrades become a casual dwelling for the citizens representing Bahamian style. They penetrated into traditional vernacular buildings, expressing economic variants of housing in Miami. It is hard to imagine this vibrant city without luxurious buildings reflecting the Mediterranean Revival period in the city. The following periods of Art Deco, Modern, and Depression Modern simplified and generalized the compositions. The architecture of Miami is represented by a variety of styles and techniques as it is associated with historical periods of the city.
Bahamian Architecture Period (Late 19th, Early 20th)
Bahamian architecture was represented by the conch houses, which were quite simple and attractive at the same time. It was not a traditional architecture of Southern America, but it became a part of rich American history and heritage. The first Bahamian immigrants arrived in Miami in 1920 and faced strict and humiliating segregation, which caused them to build their dwellings in a separate area (Woods 249). Despite all the obstacles and moral pressure, they needed work that was unavailable in their native land. Their style of life, ethnic elements, and national spirit were reflected in the conch houses. This type of house was a traditional dwelling of Bahamian immigrants; it was organized by the first black community in Miami. The houses were made of wood with quite a simple construction, though they looked exotic and reflected the Bahamian period of architecture in the city. Complicated climatic circumstances of life made the inhabitants develop some piers for better circulating of air. It was easy to identify the Bahamian style on the street as the houses had obvious and specific characteristics. They were arranged in a right rectangular form with two floors. The front part had a porch surrounded with nice balustrades. Roofs were low and gabled and mostly they were made of metal. The windows consisted of two parts – sashes, which slightly lapped over the frame.
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Mariah Brown House was the most famous building representing the Bahamian period in Miami. It was a simple vernacular, one-and-a-half-story building with the wooden frame. The place was a typical example of the Southern Florida buildings without any particular academic style and made of available materials as a useful and practical house. The central door, windows, and the entire facade created asymmetric composition, looking at the North. It was a Bahamian American House museum belonging to the Coconut Groove Cemetery Association and estimated in 45,000$ (Day and Eaton 9). It was a visual memory of the Bahamian period of Miami.
Frame Vernacular Period (Late 19th, Early 20th)
Frame vernacular houses were plain buildings arranged in Miami and Florida as a response of the builders to the environmental conditions and performed with the help of available materials. Usually, they had balloon frame construction with wooden front porches and hipped or gabled roofs. The set of houses along the streets composed some kind of alley or public corridor, which looked elementary and meticulously clean and attractive at the same time. The Miami vernacular architectural style was developed out of the south and central Florida’s building tradition, performed in pastel colors with cozy and comfortable porches and multi-pitched rooflines (“The Florida Vernacular Style Guide”). Certainly, it was a reflection of local traditions, where the climate and weather specialty determined and stipulated the building structure and composition. The tendency to build these buildings appeared during the nineteenth century as a response to a complicated economic situation. However, even now the constructions look quite impressive and delightful within the composition of palms and sunny weather of Miami. It did not have stylistic compositions and was developed due to some circumstances, but now the designers use the vernacular style for developing different extraordinary forms. For instance, Brillhart’s house was a simple and practical family home designed as a self-building project instead of an old model of the vernacular house. The architect used the best features of the style and implemented it in the house. The glass doors separated the porch of the house into two parts.
The period of the vernacular architecture was closely connected with the Bahamian style. Interestingly, it was almost impossible to define the architectural style without specific knowledge. However, both Bahamian and vernacular periods exemplify one of the most complicated times in Miami.
Mediterranean Revival Period (Early 20th Century)
The Mediterranean architecture was developed in the result of penetration of different styles brought by the immigrants that have arrived from the Mediterranean cost – Spain, Italy, France, etc. It started in 1920 when the builders applied the mixture of architectural elements of Spanish Renaissance, Colonial times, Italian Renaissance, Venetian Gothic, and Beaux-Arts. It was not typical for America, but interesting forms of the luxurious dwellings ware rapidly applied in the projecting of the seaside villas and different palaces. Notwithstanding the complicated period, some rich inhabitants of Miami preferred that style to their homes. The technique reflected the features of Moorish, Hispanic, and Byzantine styles in traditional Miami buildings (“Section 2: Architectural Styles”). The Mediterranean architecture was a fancy imposing residence with open magnificent balconies and generously decorated cornices. The construction of the floor frame was typically made in rectangular form, but the building had quite a massive and symmetric facade. The villas included parapets, rich frontons with interesting and extraordinary twisted columns, and other stylistic elements. Those characteristics illustrated the relationship between architecture and the classical style. In comparison with the previous styles, the Mediterranean architecture extended the possibilities to apply different materials for building: “The most common materials are stucco walls, red tile roofs, wrought iron grilles and railings, wood brackets and balconies, and oolitic limestone, ceramic tile, and terracotta for ornament” (“Section 2: Architectural Styles”). The most outstanding example of that architectural style was Coral Gables.
It was located in the Southwestern part of Miami and built-in 1926. This project of George Merrick covered 10,000 acres. The place was the home of the University of Miami, but during the Second World War the building was used for military purposes. It is still one of the most interesting places for visitors in Florida.
Art Deco (Early to Mid-20th)
Art Deco architecture was a certain fusion of modern technological and industrial features with the decoration. Apparently, the appearance of Art Deco in America was artificial and had the same periods as the other styles of those times. This special style in architecture appeared in the result of promotion its design on the French exposition in 1925. It was a precursor period in the architecture of Miami. Its interesting forms and main characteristics are quite relaxing, casual, and informal. However, American designers perceive it with enthusiasm due to its delicate forms that could fit into the tropical Miami style. The main decorative issues were based on organic forms with geometric patterns. The houses were executed using the latest construction materials and methods (“Section 2: Architectural Styles”).
The possibilities of the Art Deco decoration style were quite versatile. The designers could even apply decorative elements from industrial thematic to Egyptian, American Indian, or Mayan style. It resembled a modern architecture with the elements of ancient features. The form of the buildings had vertical orientations. To confirm Miami’s character of the houses, the builders applied traditional tropical elements such as flamingos, palms, pelicans, ocean, or moon that were reflected in the bas-relief panels, glasses, and murals. The majority of all the famous buildings in Miami were executed in Art Deco, so not surprisingly, the Cavalier Hotel was one of them. It is an asymmetric building erected according to the golden rule of three. The designers used some elements of the ancient cultures illustrating the Tutankhamen’s tomb and Chichenitza temples (“10 Best Art Deco Buildings in Miami Beach”). The Art Deco period left many interesting buildings, and it slowly transformed into the Modern period.
Streamline and Depression Modern (Mid-20th)
The style emerged after a severe economic situation. It was associated with the depression and unemployed people seeking for a job in Miami. The Public Works Administration encouraged thousand of unemployed people, including artists, to build governmental buildings, roads, and other places. People with different talents were involved in public works. It was the beginning of the Modern period in Miami when plainer and simpler constructions replaced classical and different luxurious forms. Simplification and reintroduction were the main features of Modern as a consequence of depression.
The architectural style achieved a new tradition, and it was called Streamline Moderne. It was some kind of return to the more conservative style and traditional vocabulary forms, conforming to the governmental nature which exemplified the Depression Modern as a new period in Miamian architecture. It illustrated the laws of aerodynamic and growth of speed and travel in the 1930s. The fast building of cars, liners, planes, trains, and other technical items provoked fundamental reformations of the architectural style. The designers applied new materials for performing extraordinary forms.
They used neon, stainless steel, windows blokes, and chrome. The culture of new buildings was like a symbolical vehicle for political and social affairs. Thus, mostly the Depression style or a Streamline depression was applied for governmental buildings and places for social affairs. However, people used that form for the citizen’s dwellings constructions later. The title of the period could explain the main feature of that style since streamlines were the key detail of the architecture of Depression Modern. Many places, which had important state meaning for the city, were decorated according to the Streamline Moderne. Walgreen Drug Store that was arranged in 1936 on Flagler Street is a brilliant example of the style since it was a five-story building with ribbon windows and corner curved entrance.
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The building was recently admitted as a historical place and listed to the national register. Undoubtedly, the style of Art Deco slowly transferred into Streamline moderns, since the artists preferred pure aerodynamic lines as the main decoration, expressing the essence of that time period. Cylindrical forms, as well as long horizontal windows (also called ribbon windows), made the period of the architectural style unique in Miami.
Miami Modern (Mid-20th Century)
Miami’s modern style was also called Mimo. It was a period of the global transformation of America because of World War II. The epoch of depression suddenly changed into a time of prosperity and success. Irrespective of the post-war destructions in the entitled world, America and Miami particularly experienced deep art transformations that concerned architecture. Mimo was a Miamian phenomenon or, in other words, it was a Miami Modern style that reflected a true essence of American success during the Second World War. The Mimo technique was some kind of fusion or mixture of the streamline modern and Art Deco style, reflecting its simplicity together with practical and functional order. That style was universal and people could apply it as a way to decorate a personal dwelling, although the hotels and motels were the main buildings reflecting Mimo. Its main features were frequent use of geometric patterns, oval shapes, kidney, cast concrete decorative panels, stylized sculpture, curves, and stonework depicting marine at the entrances (“Section 2: Architectural Styles”).
The Mino style was not typical but became a separate architectural technique, particularly in Miami. It included multiple stylistic details and forms, such as open-air verandas, pipe columns, symmetric staircases, etc. Many hotels and motels were renovated and reconstructed in Miami, preserving the style as, the Motel New Yorker that was a bright example of the Mimo architectural style in Miami.
In conclusion, Miami is one of the most interesting places in the world not because of its peculiarities as a city for vacations but also as a place with multiple architectural styles illustrating different periods in the history of Miami. It is a unique place in Florida as it combines elements of contemporaneity and historical heritage. Thus, Miami illustrates different periods of architectural art. The Bahamian style was the first style associated with the first black community immigrants, who built their dwellings in the segregated zones having no materials for that. Frame Vernacular Period was some kind of continuation of the Bahamian style. In opposition to those periods, the Mediterranean Revival Period illustrated the luxurious features of Italy, Spain, and France as well as different classical forms. Art Deco simplified all the magnificence of that technique. However, the onset of depression was also carefully reflected in architecture – Modern and Depression Modern created simple lines performing the aerodynamic laws. Nevertheless, the prosperity of the postwar period was illustrated in Mimo style. Hence, it is necessary to admit that Miami is a unique place with multiple architectural periods.
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