February 07 2013

Why are South Florida’s Old Buildings So Romantic?

“Love is in the Air” as Valentine’s Day approaches – lovebirds making romantic plans together and some committed couples planning their wedding. So what is the venue of popular choice? Old, pre-1950’s, historical buildings.

Biltmore Lobby

The Biltmore, Deering Estate, and Gables Museum are all Valentine’s Day favorites; just as Vizcaya, Miami Beach Community Church, Cruz Building, Venetian Pool, Spanish Monastery, and more are sought-after for weddings. I, as well, had my wedding in the beautiful lobby of a historic bank, now the KC Public Library.

Miami Beach Community Church

But what exactly is it that instinctively attracts people to these older buildings? Surely we were not more romantic before the 1950’s; nor was the architecture littered with hearts, roses, and other symbols of love. On the contrary, they were simple, balanced, and detailed:

  • Human Proportions: The basic structure of older buildings is simple: verticality. Responding to the building/human relationship, a sub-conscious correlation to the human body is deliberate in upright openings, massing, and other elements. Just as a slender person is often synonymous with beauty, a vertical opening is more appealing than a squat, horizontal one.

Colonnade Building in Coral Gables

  • Intimate Interiors: Bigger is not always better – especially in architecture. Older buildings gracefully accommodate both small and large groups. From the compact courtyard of the Coral Gables City Hall to the grand Gusman Theatre, these historic facilities use spectacular volume ratios to make each space comfortable.

Granada Ballroom

  • Delicate Details: The intricate and handcrafted details are a romantic language of their own. Though not embellishments of love or passion specifically, they have a natural appeal due to the human scale and soft materials. As for weddings, a historic interior may only need a little decoration or none at all.

Biltmore Lobby Detail

Though most of today’s architecture is drifting towards a more sleek, modern design, it is apparent that people are still attracted to the traditional look and feel of older buildings. These principles may seem forgotten in contemporary construction, but the traditional architecture movement prevails to restore and evolve the age-old relationship between building and human. What do you appreciate about historic buildings?

Credits: Images by Jennifer Garcia. Data linked to sources.

Jennifer Garcia

Born and raised in the Midwest, Jennifer García now enjoys the energy and quality of life that Miami has to offer. Professionally, she uses traditional architecture and principles of the New Urbanism as a Town Planner at Dover, Kohl & Partners. Based on careful research, she designs each project within the context of the local architectural language, distinct culture, and regional settlement patterns. She proudly holds a Master of Architecture from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Traveling has taught her to immerse herself into each place’s history, culture, traditions, and how they contribute to the range of urbanism and local vernacular. She also enjoys blogging as a local transit advocate for Transit Miami. Her daily bicycle commutes reinforce her belief in nurturing a living urbanism with livable streets.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, February 7th, 2013 at 9:24 am and is filed under Architecture, History/Preservation, Social/Demographics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


6 Responses to “Why are South Florida’s Old Buildings So Romantic?”

  1. Ines Says:

    Loved the photos and your perspective, thanks for linking to our windows article on Miamism.com

  2. Alex Says:

    Beautiful photos!

    I think people are drawn to historic buildings because it’s easier to appreciate the hard work and skill that goes into them when the details are very intricate.

  3. Steve Mouzon Says:

    Thanks for this, Jennifer! You’ve explained several of the elements that make architecture lovable. There’s also a back-story that begins with the profession of architecture deciding in the mid-1930s that if you want to be significant, you must be unique. This led quickly to architects becoming embarrassed with doing anything that might be proven to be lovable because you’re not allowed to do anything that’s proven anymore. Most of the architects that once knew how to design lovable buildings never worked again after the 15-year double whammy of the Great Depression and WWII, so that next generation and those that followed had no idea how to do it, even if they had wanted to. The New Renaissance began about 1980, and three decades later, there’s finally a cadre of architects and designers that know how to design lovable buildings again… they’re small, but they’re growing. Because you studied at Andrews, I trust you’re one of them.

  4. Jennifer Says:

    Thanks, Alex!
    In today’s global industrial era, there’s a significant value in quality craftsmanship. People value a connection to their products they use and places they inhabit – appreciating something that has character and can “tell a story.”

  5. Amanda Says:

    Your 4th photo…with the arched ceiling – what is that? It’s beautiful!

  6. Jennifer Garcia Says:

    Amanda, that is a picture overlooking the Granada Ballroom in the Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables. It is quite a beautiful space – perfect for wedding receptions or any special event.

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