South Beach Terrazzo and Architecture Tour
The following are highlights of my recent visit to the historic Art Deco district in Miami Beach, Florida, also known as South Beach. Photos are organized into two sections: Terrazzo and Architecture.
Larios on the Beach (Ocean Drive). This dazzling terrazzo tile floor certainly caught my eye. It features an aggregate mix of crushed seashells, blue sea glass, and cross sections of spiraling nautilus seashells in a neutral gray matrix. If I were assigned to create these rectangular tiles, I would cast blocks of solid terrazzo with the above aggregate and matrix mix, and include whole spiral seashells in the mold. Later I would run a diamond saw blade through the block and slice off tile-thickness rectangular slabs. That’s how to get the cross sections. The highly designed interior is replete with polished, stunning terrazzo surfaces. I just had to inquire who owned this fabulous restaurant. The answer: The seven-time Grammy award-winning Gloria Estefan and her husband Emilio, who designed the space. (left)
A richly patterned geometric terrazzo design in the former Chase Federal Savings & Loan Bank. Now a Banana Republic and very tastefully repurposed. I sense that this striking floor is probably a relatively recent installation. (right)
An exquisite geometric-patterned terrazzo hotel lobby floor in excellent condition with a bright polish. Wearing quite well… (left)
The Marlin Hotel is a typical Miami Beach Art Deco gem. Smallish in size, it features a “Rule of Three” Deco façade with ornamental relief work depicting sub-aquatic marine life. The ornamental friezes are painted in “Tropical Deco” pastel colors. There is geometrically-patterned terrazzo flooring both in and outside. The corners of the building are rounded in “Streamline” style. Concrete “eyebrows” projected over windows provide shade. The perimeter of the façade is framed in blue neon lighting–very striking at night.
Better seen in the next image are the decorative steel railings featuring wave patterns and portholes or seafoam (your choice). Also note the use of native coral wall cladding and Deco wall sconces. (right)
This structure, awaiting renovation, shows a simple formula for elegance on what is basically an inexpensive flat white stucco façade. Two vertical pilasters connected by a decorative steel railing that sits on an “eyebrow”; a line of ornamental relief squares above the second story windows; and a scalloped cornice. One can of lime-proof pastel blue paint highlights all relief elements. Simple, elegant, and relatively inexpensive to create. (left)
Door grille using geometric patterns (think portholes). Interior terrazzo floor visible through glass. That’s me taking this picture in the reflection. (left)
Note use of perforated decorative concrete block for ventilation in center, as well as truncated “campanile” style pediment that is reminiscent of the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas. (right)
This recent visit was a delicious appetizer. I now have some questions that seek answers. Who were the artisans who installed these acres of colorful, decorative terrazzo? (We are kindred spirits.) Where did they come from? Italy? The Caribbean? (I myself, for example, learned to do terrazzo in Puerto Rico.) Was there some cross pollination between the Art Deco architecture in nearby Havana, Cuba and Miami Beach? This does seem apparent to me.
I will be exploring all this in the future. I look forward to my next visit to this exciting tropical locale.