Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Breakwater Hotel

The Breakwater Hotel (940 Ocean Drive Miami Beach Fl) was built in 1939 by Anton  Skislewicz. This was the first stop on the sketch walk I hosted along with Gay Geiger. At the start she offered a quick sumation of the history of Art Deco architecture. Her talk was made a bit challenging because all the old cars parked along ocean drive for the car show drove by honking horns revving their engines.

Art Deco was born in Europe, first introduced in 1925 at “Exposition des Arts Decoratifs” in
Paris and flourished internationally from the 1920s - 30s. Its influence is derived from ancient Greek, Egyptian, and Mayan motifs. Also, by Cubist paintings and the Machine Age. In 1920s gambling, booze, and prostitution that came down came down to Miami with New York crime lords who invested in the hotels, were where illegal activities happened. A 1926 Hurricane wiped out and changed much of South Beach’s architecture from Mediterranean Revival to Art Deco. Miami took Art Deco and added Tropical and Natuical Deco Motifs. Motifs include frozen fountains (splashes of water frozen in time), eyebrows (ledges above windows brought with tech of reinforced concrete).
In the 1930s Henry Hohauser added curves and streamlining, by 40s Deco was over and the 1950 to 60s gave way to Miami Modernist (MiMo). Anything built after 1965 is considered “New Construction”.

The rooftop terrace of the Breakwater was the location of Bruce Weber’s early-1980s photo shoot for Calvin Klein Underwear which sparked world-wide interest in the Art Deco District as a backdrop for
the fashion industry. The Breakwater’s perfectly balanced A-B-A facade helps make the
central design even more pronounced. The hotel has etched plate glass windows which are done in the Floridiana style complete with flamingos, palm trees, and tropical terrain. It was purchased and refinished by Jordache Jeans in 2011.

What is great about Urban Sketching is that each artist has their own aesthetic and approach when sketching. The same subject might be interpreted by architects and artists with widely different and equally interesting results. I didn't offer any insights or instruction except for artist who asked for feedback. I experimented and worked faster than usual since we only has an hour at each of 3 stops. Results were unexpected and fun.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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