Art Deco Historic District & Ocean Dr
A photo tour through the iconic Miami Beach area.


The South Beach Clock Tower – although “tower” seems like a bit of a stretch – indicated the temperature was reaching the 90s, although with humidity included, it certainly felt closer to the hundreds. Bodies of all shapes and sizes skated down the street, clad in bright neon bikini tops and shorts. Others lounged casually, some under the shade of the tall palm trees that swayed with the barely-there breeze, some under the blazing sun which would surely tan their gleaming skin further. In long pants, sneakers, and a t-shirt, I certainly stood out from the crowd. 

As most other things during this bizarre time, The Art Deco Welcome Center was mostly closed, save for an expo on women’s voting rights. Normally, they would have a wide variety of walking tours, but for now anyone interested could opt to take the self-guided audio tour. Personally, they’re not my favorite way of doing tours, but at least it allows me to go back and listen to things again.  

The Art Deco Architectural Audio Tour lasts between 1.5 – 2 hours, covers about 15 blocks and 15 locations, and costs $25 dollars. I wasn’t really in the mood to take the tour, but I did explore the app and what it included: The audio itself was very entertaining (at least to me), with era-appropriate music, voices and effects, transcript, a glossary, detailed information about the architectural styles that prevail along the historic district, and a map of course.

But not taking a tour didn’t mean I couldn’t appreciate the marshmallow-colored buildings lining the west side of Ocean Drive. 


According to the Miami Design Preservation League, established in 1976, three main designs can be found in the Miami Beach area: Art Deco, Mediterranean Revival, and Miami Modern.

Art Deco has had several phases. The style found in Miami Beach is specific to the second phase, occurring (for the most part) between the stock market crash of ’29 and WWII. According to MDPL, elements found in Art Deco are:

Over-all symmetry, ziggurat (stepped) rooflines, glass block, decorative sculptural panels, eyebrows, round porthole windows, terrazzo floors, curved edges and corners, elements in groups of three, neon lighting (used in both exteriors as well as interior spaces).

The pastel colors and beach-inspired motifs, as well as the use of neon found throughout Miami, resulted in a sub-style of Art Deco known as Tropical Deco. 

Mediterranean Revival borrows from Spanish and Italian Renaissance, French and Spanish Colonial, and Moorish architecture and is predominant especially in coastal California and Florida. The Tower of Terror building located in Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a prominent example of this style. Elements to look for, says MDPL, include:

Bell towers, archways, awnings, porches, balconies, carved stonework, rough stucco walls, clay tiles roofs, wrought iron fixtures.

Casa Casuarina, Miami Beach, USA

Lastly, Miami Modern appears right after Art Deco, in a post-WWII environment. The mid-century style is more colorful, bolder, full of contrasting textures and shapes. MDPL describes these elements as part of the movement:

Asymmetry and rakish angles; cheese hole cutouts; kidney and amoeba shapes; futuristic jet and space age forms; mosaic murals; anodized aluminum in gold and copper.

Acroterion, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Tamanoeconomico, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

On the east of Ocean Drive is Lummus Park, running from 5th St to 14th Pl. The park adds structure and greenness to the area; a barrier of sorts that separates the flashy neon city from the wild, stormy sea.


You can learn more about the Art Deco Historic District and the Miami Design Preservation League here.


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Based mainly in Colorado. Loves cheese, rain, and starry nights. Can usually be spotted in the wild wearing a Spirit Jersey and balancing two cameras. Often laughs and cries at the same time. Barely survived one Master's program, but wants to do another.

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