Story Behind The Style
Miami Modern, better known as MiMo, is a style of architecture from the Post World War II era (1945 to mid-1960s) that originated in Miami and Miami Beach as a local adaptation of the various modernist architectural movements that flourished in other parts of the world.
MiMo buildings responded to the subtropical climate and the booming resort economy, adding glamour, fun, and material excess to otherwise stark, minimalist, and efficient styles. The predominant types of MiMo buildings in Miami Beach are the glamorous resort hotels (such as the Fontainebleau, Eden Roc and Deauville) and the modest garden style apartments and tourist lodgings that housed the burgeoning middle-class population. Both types feature playful MiMo architectural features like acute angles, delta wings, sweeping curved walls, and soaring pylons.
MiMo architecture returned to the international spotlight in 2002 with the exhibition entitled, “Beyond the Box: Mid-Century Modern Architecture in Miami and New York.”
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POST WORLD WAR II
Decades of deprivation during the Great Depression and wartime had left Americans dreaming of a carefree life and a better world for themselves and their children. Consequently, the United States—wealthy, strong and influential—emerged as a global power following World War II. Miami Beach played a significant role as a training site and redistribution center for the U.S. Army-Air Forces during the Second World War. Many veterans who had trained as recruits in Miami Beach returned here after their tour of duty to vacation or to make their home, often with their brides.
America redirected its enormous industrial capacity from the defense economy back to the domestic economy following the war. There was no longer a perceived need for rationing, conserving and recycling. It was an age of exuberance and abundance. The McCarthy Era and the beginning of the Cold War fostered the championing of capitalism and the celebration of the American way. A thriving economy gave rise to a growing middle class able to purchase a home and fulfill the American dream. Luxury items suddenly began to flood the market and became affordable to the masses for the first time.
NEW MODERN SOCIETY
New electric appliances and gadgets with push buttons began to invade many households. Air conditioning was introduced as a novel modern convenience that tremendously added to the comforts of living in Florida and most importantly allowed for a year-round economy. Architects at last were freed from having to adapt their buildings to the hot, humid climate.
However, the technological advance with the greatest impact on America was the television. Forever changing mass communications and entertainment, the television appeared in nearly every household. Programs often portrayed harmonious, happy families living perfect lives in beautiful homes, and these characters became society icons. Rock-and-roll, brought directly into homes on the radio or television, emerged as mainstream pop music for happy-go-lucky, fun-loving American teenagers. It was an age of innocence. Read More Here>
From about 1945 to the mid-1960’s, the widely popular MiMo style was applied to hotels, apartment houses, commercial buildings and single-family homes throughout Miami Beach.
MiMo style buildings generally made extensive use of plate glass, poured concrete and special materials such as glass mosaic tile , architectural screen block, crab orchard stone, as well as expansive use of high-grade marble, and rare hardwoods on the public interiors. Two or more textured surfaces often were used together (i.e. stucco with stone, brick, or tile, as well as contra-sting smooth and patterned stucco surfaces) Elements such as accordion-like folded plane roofs and walls, acute angles or subtle angles, dynamic parabolas, delta wing shapes, sweeping curved walls, and soaring pylons introduced drama wherever they were employed. Read More Here>
Low-scale apartment houses in the MiMo style commonly featured floor plans that were reorganized from interior double-loaded corridors (a central corridor with rooms on each side) to open-air corridors or catwalks on one side or more. Simple rectangular-shape building massing remained a dominant characteristic, but new functional exterior elements profoundly impacted on the design. Overhanging roof plates and projecting floor slabs became typical of the new style along with paired or clustered pipe columns. Read More Here>
Striking MiMo-style hotels often featured expansive glass curtain walls, cantilevered asymmetrical roofs, leaping arches, dramatic fin walls, floating planes, architectural bridges, and grand entrance porte cocheres. Bold neon signs or logos sometimes graced primary Façades in order to catch the eye of passing motorists. “Sky signs” were sometimes mounted on rooftop features or on parapet walls.
Color was an essential ingredient of signage. The fenestration (a building’s arrangement, proportion, and design of windows and doors) was often highlighted with boxed windows, as well as continuous ribbon windows and eyebrows. The hotels often took on exotic or futuristic forms, using architecture as advertising in an effort to outdo one another in attracting business.
This new MiMo-style architecture celebrated the satisfaction of announcing that the Post-World War II era in Miami Beach and America had truly “arrived.”