Aaron Britt: Having been to Miami several times now, most recently for Design Miami and Art Basel Miami Beach just last month, I've grown increasingly fond of the place. Equal parts pleasure center, vibrant cultural whirlpool, and throbbing exercise in artifice, Miami is a city perpetually grasping at a history that in many ways, it simply does not have. Only 100 years ago it was largely swampland, and a nascent playground for the rich. As year-round residency increased, and the city embraced the swelling middle class of American vacationers, the boom of authentic Art Deco building eventually exploded into some of the US's most compelling mid-century modern design.
Which is exactly the subject of the smart, thoroughly-researched and visually exciting Miami Modern Metropolis: Paradise and Paradox in Mid-century Architecture and Planning from Balcony Press. This book, edited by Allan T. Shulman, an architect, historian and professor at the University of Miami School or Architecture, could have been another coffee table book dedicated to mid-century porn and the haunts of the East Coast elite, but instead it is a coffee table book that merits main course reading.
Ranging in subject from glitzy South Beach hotels to the human geography dictated by segregation to the way a handful of new university campuses altered the notions of public space, Miami Modern Metropolis is a portrait of a city stretching out under the influence of post-war optimism, ample cash and the ceaseless hum of the air conditioner. Though there's certainly lots here to delight the eye--as a romp through the aesthetics and advertising of the 30s-60s it succeeds--they are the wonderfully sharp and digestable essays that make this book worth continued perusal.
To images from the book, please visit the slideshow.