Last evening the Wolfsonian hosted a filled-to-capacity event in its auditorium for visiting American Institute of Architects members and local architectural enthusiasts. The draw was a conversation, visual presentation, and book signing event by authors Allan Shulman, Randall Robinson, Jr., and Jeff Donnelly, and photographer Robin Hill. The three authors had been collaborating for years on an ambitious project aimed at documenting the renowned and lesser known architectural gems that have survived in the rapidly changing built environment of Miami-Dade County. As the project threatened to produce a voluminous tome as expansive and sprawling as the county itself, the authors wisely decided to narrow their focus to three zones within Miami-Dade, and to forgo attempting any sort of comprehensive catalog in favor of a “curatorial” selection. The result is their Miami Architecture: An AIA Guide Featuring Downtown, the Beaches, and Coconut Grove, recently published by the University Press of Florida. Judging by the packed auditorium and the enthusiastic reaction of the audience, the authors made the right choice. 

From Washington Storage Co. to The Wolfsonian Museum


In honor of the architects attending the AIA convention here in Miami Beach, we put together an exhibit of Unrealized Architecture in our library foyer. See my earlier blog: 

In addition, I thought that today’s blog could focus on some of the varied materials and formats here in our library that picture some of the lost and surviving architectural treasures of Miami, Miami Beach, and Coral Gables. The Wolfsonian-FIU library holds several extremely rare photograph albums for both the Nautilus and Flamingo Hotels built in Miami Beach during the boom of the early 1920s. In the wake of the great Florida hurricane of 1926, the subsequent land bust, and onset of the Great Depression, neither of these hotels in the grand old style survived. 



The library also has a wealth of rare brochures and advertisements and pamphlets marketing Miami, Coral Gables, and Miami Beach from the 1920s through the 1940s which sought to depict the region as a tropical paradise and American “Riviera.” 




The library holds more than 11,000 vintage postcards, several hundred of which depict South Florida. A few of these cards depict historic buildings such as the Miami Biltmore Hotel (here in its World War II incarnation as the Pratt General Hospital); others represent the Art Deco and modern architectural trends of the late 1930s and 1940s. 


The majority of our Florida postcards were designed to promote Miami and Miami Beach as a tourist destination, and not surprisingly, many of the hotel owners and managers who commissioned them wanted to avoid depicting their buildings as they actually stood in the context of Miami Beach’s compact urban environment. As can be seen, most took some creative license with reality, editing out the competition next door and making it appear as though their hotel had plenty of lush tropical landscape on either side. 


Once again, we extend our welcome to the visiting delegates of the AIA and hope that this teaser sparks some excitement among architectural aficionados around the globe (and on the web).

~ by "The Chief" on June 11, 2010.

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