Déjà vu Miami

Its strangely nostalgic walking along Ocean Drive in South Beach, Miami.

The beach bungalows, swaying palm trees, cool salty breeze, children’s laughter, neon signs lighting up as twilight sets in, soft music from somewhere, enchantment everywhere.

For a few moments while holding my niece’s three-year-old daughter’s hand, I felt as if it was me being three-year-old holding my father’s hand, walking along Katong beach in the 1960s.

So much of this part of Miami reminds me of Singapore’s east coast before the natural shoreline was extended to create housing estates. What we have now of a coast is mostly tarmac and imported sand from Indonesia.

While Singapore has replaced almost all of the beautiful beach-front houses with high-rise apartments, Miami managed to keep the buildings constructed in the 1920s to 1940s on today’s prime land just steps from the wide beach along the Atlantic coastline.

Most of these ocean-front buildings have been restored and turned into boutique hotels, restaurants, clubs or shops. Every building has a story and provenance like a piece of art. And rightly they are all architectural artworks.

Can’t imagine that this stripe almost crumpled into a pathetic desolate neighbourhood in the 70s after retirees left most of the buildings in disrepair and neglect.

Today’s Miami’s Art Deco District is the result of years of dedicated work by the Miami Design Preservation League that put some 800 buildings into the list National Register of Historic Places.

A saving grace for the grand old special structures that bring time back to those of us who still remember what it was like in mid-20th century.




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