The Student News Site of MAST Academy

The Beacon

The Student Newspaper of MAST Academy, since 1991.
The Student News Site of MAST Academy

The Beacon

The Beacon

Senior Issue 2024
June 5, 2024

Art Deco on Ocean Drive: Miami’s legendary street

By Isabella Martinez
Staff Writer

The soft-colored Avalon Hotel and the bold yellow car parked in front of it gives off the timeless look of the 1940s. (Mitchell Funk. Art Deco Building on Ocean Drive. Offered by Robert Funk Fine Art. Source: Google Images.)

An iconic street made up of vintage architecture, stunning beach views, bustling cafes and bars, and vibrant nightlife is known to local Miamians as Ocean Drive. Ocean Drive extends parallel to the famous South Beach, beginning from First Street at South Pointe and ending at XV Street on Lincoln Road. Strolling past the pastel-toned buildings, restaurants overflowing onto the street, and roller-skating locals makes it seem like you have just walked into the 1920s. Along with the modern portions of Ocean Drive, numerous retro-style structures make up the Miami Art Deco District. 

The architecture found here is a combination of various architects and is inspired by the widely popular Art Deco look. Mark Gordon, an employee at The Miami Design Preservation League, describes Art Deco as “tropical and lively.” Ocean Drive is home to the most extraordinary collection of early 20th century aesthetic architecture and is claimed to be the heart of Art Deco. Among the district’s uniquely designed hotels, the prestigious 1939 Colony Hotel is recognized as the most photographed art deco hotel, featured in various movies and TV shows. Ocean Drive is also home to the infamous Versace House, the residence of Gianni Versace, the Italian clothing designer. The Versace House is one of the most publicized houses in North America. With many famous landmarks, it is evident that Ocean Drive lives up to its name as the legendary street of Miami. 

A handful of visionary men who, during the 1910s, invested in a swamp-like land are to credit for the now magnificent and prosperous district known as Ocean Drive. By 1913, the first luxury hotel in the area was completed, and South Beach had mansions, hotels, and by 1920, lavish buildings began appearing left and right. At the time it was built, Art Deco was a renowned architecture trend, which explains the abundance of the classic look. Albert Anis and Henry Hohauser are a few of the notable architects whose idea of a new line of modernism is portrayed their buildings’ the exotic attraction. As the city boomed with more visitors, Ocean Drive quickly grew as a flourishing hotspot due to its eccentric structures and accessible beaches. However, as the years rolled on, the street started to look out-dated and was losing its distinct style. Over time, the layout went through subtle touch-ups that updated the design but still kept the nostalgic feel. 

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The modern Art Deco that is seen today is heavily inspired by the 1924 Paris Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. This was a design fair held in Paris that embraced the blossoming connection between the decorative arts’ and technology. The clean geometric patterns and Egyptian symbols used during this period are now tied to Miami’s tropical theme. It is no secret that Ocean Drive is an iconic emblem in South Beach, setting it apart from any other section of the city. Art Deco’s impact in not only Miami but America is seen in fashion, furniture, and art. The style “contributed to the city’s renaissance with its historic architecture,” Mark Gordon adds. The street was made uniquely to Miami culture and recognized as a symbol of the vibrant environment. From eating at Gianni’s at the Villa or staying at the Clevelander hotel, there is something to do at every corner of Ocean Drive. Over the years, colorful neon lights and vividly lit houses have illuminated the Art Deco trend undeniably South Beach. Ocean Drive is undoubtedly one of the American hotspots for the Art Deco style, whether you should be visiting these wonderfully historic buildings or just happen to appreciate the breathtaking architectural models when driving by. Its existence and restoration have proven that Art Deco’s glamour is everlasting.

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Art Deco on Ocean Drive: Miami’s legendary street