Architecture

Preservation of Miami Modern buildings began in the 1990s

 

mherrera@MiamiHerald.com

Miami Modern architecture, or MiMo, the city’s own strain of Mid-Century Modern, is a familiar sight on Miami Beach and along Biscayne Boulevard. Buildings like the Deauville Hotel were built after World War II and before the 1970s.

The Miami metropolitan area has three major MiMo preservation districts: North Shore and Normandy Isle on Miami Beach, and the Biscayne Boulevard area in Miami

The preservation of MiMo buildings began in the 1990s, when Randall Robinson and Teri D’Amico grew concerned with the demolition of Miami Beach motels that featured unique styles characteristic of the post-WWII era.

MiMo architecture features out-of-the-ordinary styles, such as curved walls, textured surfaces, cutouts and mosaic tile. It differs from Art Deco, another style popular in Miami, in its functionality. While both styles use decorative elements in their designs, those same elements serve a purpose in Miami Modern architecture, particularly in the hot and sunny South Florida climate. For instance, concrete “breeze blocks” are walls with cutouts or other gaps to allow for airflow, like those on Temple Menorah on Miami Beach.

In recent years, examples of Miami Modern architecture, such as the restoration of the Vagabond Motel on Biscayne Boulevard and developer Avra Jain’s plan to buy and restore four more MiMo motels in the district, have received more attention. The interest is a good sign, said Jeff Donnelly, a Miami Beach historian.

Donnelly explained that it took several years for Art Deco architecture in South Beach to be recognized as important. “I think this is a big kind of a moment to recognize these buildings,” Donnelly said. “That's a significant step forward in the preservation.”

Donnelly likened saving MiMo architecture to the importance of saving old books.

“If you destroy that book, that building, that preservation disappears,” he said. “These are historical records. It helps to tell the story of that particular era.”

Miami Beach

North Beach has the highest concentration of MiMo architecture on Miami Beach, including many smaller apartment complexes. Many hotels in North and Mid Beach are MiMo styled, like the Deauville Beach Resort, 6701 Collins Ave., which the Beatles visited. Other highlights include the North Shore Bandshell, 7275 Collins Ave., and the Regions Bank on Normandy Isle, 1133 Normandy Dr.

Biscayne Boulevard

MiMo can be found along Biscayne Boulevard, particularly south of 79th Street. Motels such as the Shalimar Motel, 6200 Biscayne Blvd., and South Pacific Motel, 6300 Biscayne Blvd., feature textured walls and angled roofs. The old Bacardi USA headquarters at 2100 Biscayne Blvd. uses mosaic tile, a major element of MiMo decorations.

Greater Miami

There are other MiMo buildings scattered around Miami-Dade County. The University of Miami has several buildings that feature MiMo architecture, including the School of Architecture and the MacArthur Engineering Building, which features a breeze block wall. The Miami Marine Stadium on Virginia Key, which is no longer in use, was built with an accordion roof and angled structures.

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