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By: Shayne Benowitz

Greater Miami & Miami Beach is striking for its colorful architecture set against vibrant green palm trees and sparkling aquamarine seas. From the streamlined pastel and neon symmetry of Art Deco to the sumptuous Spanish tile and stucco of Mediterranean Revival, the destination is a feast for the eyes.

One of Greater Miami & Miami Beach’s most distinctive architectural and design styles is what’s known as MiMo, or Miami Modern. With a playful Space Age aesthetic combined with a touch of 1950s kitsch, this is Miami’s subtropical resort riff on the mid-century Modernist movement that swept across Europe and around the globe after World War II.

The Hallmarks of MiMo Design

Thanks to the efforts of groups such as the Miami Design Preservation League, Miami’s MiMo architecture has been lovingly preserved for us to enjoy today. The movement is playful, eccentric – even extravagant – while adhering to a geometrical aesthetic inspired by the era’s modern art movement. In Miami, it brought a greater interplay between a building’s indoor and outdoor features, with courtyards and catwalks, balconies, beanpole columns and cheese hole accents, sweeping curved walls and cantilevered rooflines with playful acute angles. Delta wing accents are reminiscent of aviation and the Space Age, ushering in an era of optimism.

Explore MiMo Architecture

From grand beachside resorts to modest garden apartments and inviting motels, there are three distinct MiMo districts in Miami Beach, plus a stretch of Biscayne Boulevard on Miami’s mainland where you’ll find MiMo architecture decorating the streets.

Fontainebleau lobby
Pose for pics on the "stairway to nowhere" & black-and-white bowtie floor

MiMo Architecture in Miami Beach

Morris Lapidus Mid-20th Century Historic District

Morris Lapidus is arguably the godfather of MiMo architecture. The mile-long historic district on Collins Avenue in Miami Beach, which runs from 44th to 52nd streets, is named for him. It includes five buildings he designed, including the Fontainebleau and the Eden Roc, two of the most recognizable and impressive.

Built in 1954, the Fontainebleau Miami Beach features a sweeping curved façade, as well as a scalloped wall of cheese hole cutouts. Inside the lobby, the famous “stairway to nowhere” was designed purely for show, so that women could make their grand entrance for the evening by sashaying down the stairs. Today, it still makes for a great photo op, and the resort is as fashionable as ever. The black-and-white bowtie marble floor is another iconic Lapidus detail, playing with both geometry and extravagance.

Just next door, the Eden Roc was completed in 1956 with a gently folding concave façade including two vertical panels of aquamarine-perforated masonry and a dramatic smokestack rooftop reminiscent of a steam liner for a nautical flair. Inside, the circular lobby is anchored by a central, sunken bar crowned with a sculptural chandelier. You’ll also find original columns, brass frescoed elevator doors and terrazzo flooring with fleur-de-lis flourishes. Today, the hotel is home to the trendy Nobu restaurant.

Carillon Exterior
Admire the Carillon Miami Beach's accordion-style façade

North Beach Resort Historic District

Farther up the beach on Collins Avenue, spanning from 63rd to 73rd streets, the North Beach Resort Historic District is home to its own MiMo marvels and storied past.

The highlight of this district is the Carillon Hotel. This sweeping oceanfront resort by architect Norman Giller was built in 1957 with an accordion-style façade. Today, the original clock and neon Art Deco moniker still emblazon the top of the tower. The property is now a wellness resort that is home to the largest spa in Greater Miami & Miami Beach.

Normandy Shores & Normandy Isles National Register District

While MiMo is associated with the elegance and glamour of Lapidus resorts, the breezy and modest garden apartments found in Miami Beach throughout Normandy Shores and Normandy Isles are also part of this movement. Here, you’ll find two-story apartment complexes with buildings mirroring one another, connected by a courtyard and outdoor catwalks. The tranquil, shady respite of courtyards proved to be a desirable design for Miami’s subtropical temperatures and lifestyle.

Vagabond Pool
Check out The Vagabond's playful MiMo aesthetic

Miami Mainland

MiMo Biscayne Boulevard Historic District

Running along Biscayne Boulevard in an area known as the Upper Eastside, another corridor of MiMo architecture has been preserved through its historic roadside motels, from roughly 63rd to 74th streets.

The most lovingly restored of these motels is the Vagabond, which has been reimagined as a hip boutique hotel with a playful pool deck and outdoor bar. The former motel has all the hallmarks of MiMo’s “Space Age” aesthetic, from its kitschy neon sign to playful acute angles, delta wing accents and the interplay between indoors and outdoors with catwalks, balconies and courtyards.

The historic Hotel New Yorker has also gotten a boutique hotel makeover, and its MiMo flourishes are still very much intact. The two-story, white concrete building has turquoise accents, catwalks, a courtyard with a pool and an office inside a curvilinear façade with the hotel’s name emblazoned in the original neon.

The next time you’re in Greater Miami & Miami Beach, keep your eyes peeled for elements of MiMo architecture. If you’re still unsure where to go, you can always join a walking tour with the Miami Design Preservation League or download a MiMo on the Beach self-guided tour from the City of Miami Beach.

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