In the fabled South Beach, a 10-mile long barrier island separated from Downtown Miami by Biscayne Bay, the Art Deco District boasts over 800 buildings erected between the 1920s and ’40s.
Departing from the Art Deco Welcome Center, the Miami Design Preservation League, the oldest Art Deco society in the world, offers 90-minute walking tours led by local historians and architects to introduce visitors to the various design styles – Art Deco, Mediterranean Revival (Cote d’Azur, Italian Riviera) and Miami Modern (post-WWII) – dotted around the Miami Beach Architectural Historic District.
The many highlights include: the Clay Hotel, said to be Al Capone’s Florida HQ; the Villa Casa Casuarina, formerly owned by the fashion mogul Gianni Versace and the scene of his 1997 shooting murder; the Carlyle Hotel, the last one built on Ocean Drive and which featured in the Nathan Lane/Robin Williams film The Birdcage; the Art Deco Post Office building; and legendary and iconic luxury hotels, the Fontainebleau, Eden Roc and Deauville. Natural themes abound, with typical motifs including palm trees, plants, flamingos and pelicans, as well as symbols of modern technology such as cars, trains and ships.
With no air conditioning at the time of construction, buildings sport design features to combat the Miami heat and humidity, such as corner windows to maximise the benefit of cool breezes and ‘eyebrows’ above windows which provide shade as the sun moves through the day.
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HOW TO GET THERE Ireland’s only four-star airline Aer Lingus serves Miami via Dublin for Scottish travellers departing from Edinburgh or Glasgow. You can pre-clear US immigration in Dublin, avoiding any lengthy delays Stateside. Fares from £219 each-way, incl. taxes and charges when booked as a return trip. Business class fares from £899 each way, incl. taxes and charges.
WHERE TO STAY
A short block from the ocean, the Philippe Starck-designed Delano South Beach is a luxury
boutique hotel which offers fine dining, poolside luxury and a roof-top wellness centre. Its Collins Avenue location provides easy access to local shopping, restaurants and nightlife.
Downtown, the SLS Brickell, also designed by Philippe Starck, has many playful design features and a spectacular, roof-top pool supervised by a giant, synthetic duck. The nearby MetroMover station provides
free transportation to all local attractions.