September 1, 2021
Over a century ago, during the roaring twenties, France birthed a unique style of architecture, fashion, and design that would soon go on to spread throughout the world — from Havana and Perth to Napier and New York. Unlike its predecessors, this movement used sleek lines, symmetry, geometric shapes, and elongated facades as an ode to the machine-age and technological innovations of the time. It would birth iconic buildings such as New York’s Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, and Radio City Music Hall. It was Art Deco.
In coastal cities like Bombay and Miami, however, a unique phenomenon occurred. Art Deco took on a maritime flair, known as Tropical Deco: nautical-inspired building features like porthole windows; sun-and-surf decorative elements like waves, palm trees, and flamingos; soft pastel shades on facades. Strolling down the iconic palm tree-lined promenades of Miami Beach’s Ocean Drive and Mumbai’s Marine Drive today is an unexpectedly similar experience, and not just because of the names (or the coincidental similarities between the Miami and India flag). Despite the nearly 9,000 miles that separate the two cities, together they — not Paris or New York — ended up housing the largest concentration of Art Deco buildings in the world.