601-685 Washington Avenue is a major rehabilitation project in Miami’s South Beach Art Deco Historic District. After decades of neglect, an entire block of connected single-story façades—many of which are landmarked—are being thoughtfully repurposed as part of a modern, mixed-use development featuring a 300-key hotel with an expansive pool deck, lounge, and restaurant, as well as boutique retail spaces on the ground floor to invigorate the public realm.
For the building’s design, Morris Adjmi Architects wanted to reference the language of Art Deco and Leonard Horowitz’s iconic pastel color palette while bringing fresh ideas to the district. The overall design shares the exuberance of many of Miami Beach’s famous historic buildings, however, it is also abstract and obviously contemporary. While references were collected from throughout the Art Deco Historic District, there was no greater source of inspiration than the existing structures on the site. At first glance, the block of mostly one-story storefronts may have seemed unassuming and underwhelming, but this row played a prominent part in the 1980’s renaissance of South Beach and was pivotal to the district’s historic designation.
The key objective was finding opportunity in the relationship to the historic buildings while existing harmoniously alongside them. In The Making of Miami Beach (1933-1942), Allan T. Shulman and Jean Francois Lejeune write that “Miami Beach is a layering of consecutive urban visions, built one on top of the other and compacted in time and space.” The massing of the new construction was designed to sit back from the historic façades while reframing their context and standing independently. The resultant shape of the building will catch light differently throughout the days and seasons—inherently dynamic without being excessively ornamental. As a specific nod to the district’s simple, angular forms, the hotel’s tower and entry are clad in fluted GFRC panels, connected by a sawtooth stucco façade. But the design is not simply referential. The flutes that compose the façade are not a reproduction of the context, they are a reinterpretation—a different scale and rhythm than the pilasters on the historic façades on the ground plane.