Currently viewing the tag: "Art Deco"

Congratulations, Miami Beach. The American Planning Association (APA) recently recognized Ocean Drive on South Beach as one of America’s Top 10 Great Streets of 2007. This is quite an honor, as Ocean Drive is in the company of other nationally famous streets such as Chicago’s North Michigan Avenue, Richmond’s Monument Avenue, and 125th Street in NYC.

According to the APA,


Great Places in America
celebrates places of exemplary character, quality, and planning. Places are selected annually and represent the gold standard of communities. The designated streets and neighborhoods are defined by several characteristics, including good design, functionality, sustainability, and community involvement.

Specifically, Ocean Drive was recognized for its unique architectural legacy, citizen-led historic protection and planning efforts, mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented restoration and redevelopment, and ongoing public support.

Not really any surprises, there. I give credit where credit is due, and the planners and citizens of Miami Beach have done a heck of a job (excuse the Bushism) the last twenty years turning Ocean Drive and South Beach around by utilizing its natural resources (density, historic architecture) and engaging the public realm for people instead of cars. It’s really a great local case study that I wish more planners and citizens in neighboring municipalities would research.

Photo courtesy of CTPEKO3A’s Flickr photostream

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Awhile back (January 5, 2007) I first read about an accidental meeting between a famous Chinese architect (Xing Tong) and a pair of Art Deco preservationists (Don and Nina Worth) from Miami Beach in the South Florida Business Journal and Miami Sunpost. It’s an interesting story which remarkably led to the Shanghai designation of the Art Deco weekend back in January. I somehow didn’t report on it back then, but, follow the links above to get an idea on the background story.

Apparently both Shanghai and Mumbai (Bombay) have architecturally significant and Art Deco districts, both of which are in peril due to impeding construction and modernization efforts. The Asian delegation arrived in January to not only experience the South Beach deco district but to also learn how to preserve their own buildings while establishing them into bustling pivotal parts of the city. In a sense similar to the preservation efforts along Miami Beach in the 1970’s, Shanghai’s officials are working hard to protect what is left of their Art Deco buildings, seeing that already countless have been lost. Deke Erh, a Shanghai photographer for the past 20 years, has been documenting the destruction; he recently published a book Shanghai Art Deco to bring greater attention to architectural treasures of Shanghai in the 20’s and 30’s before the rise of Mao Zedong.

Mumbai like many other cities in the 20’s and 30’s witnessed unprecedented growth along its waterfront. Many of the building in this time period were designed in the Art Deco style thanks to the initial efforts of the Maharajah of Indore who commissioned some of the leading European architects of the time to construct his palaces: The Manik Bagh and Umaid Bhawan (pictured above.)

“Just as the “Miami Vice” television series had a hand in illuminating certain qualities of Miami Beach‘s Deco heritage, Professor Mehrotra made it clear that the pop culture might of Bollywood is helping to preserve whole stretches of beloved buildings in Bombay. Still awaiting “historic district” status, a process begun by Mehrotra and others over ten years ago, the Back Bay and Marine Drive buildings have appeared in so many movies and music videos that developers wrecking ball dare not attack. The inertia is helped along by an antiquated regime of rent control that has frozen both investment and necessary improvements.”

To continue reading on the Miami Beach-Mumbai-Shanghai efforts, read the Slatin Report: Far East of South Beach

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Public Picks Favorite American Buildings…It shouldn’t come as surprise but only two Miami buildings are mentioned in the top 150, the Delano and the Fountainebleau, which further reinforces the fact that Miami’s architecture is rather bland and lacks a single iconic structure…

However, in looking at the top 10 “buildings” notice that 4 of them aren’t actually buildings but really just structures…

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