Mid Century Florida Architecture meets the iPhone
iPhone photographs of mid century Florida architecture
We are so fond our tiny 1949 condo home. Florida architecture was a bit of a mix in the middle of the twentieth century.
The Art Deco look, as seen on Miami's South Beach, had fallen out of favor and architects were preferring a cleaner, sleeker look. The true mid-century modern style of Florida architects such as Don Singer and Dan Duckham was still several years in the future.
When homes were designed, the Floridian weather and its problems also had to be taken into consideration.
Domestic air conditioning in the form of window units was patented by its inventor in 1948, the year construction began on our building. This meant that the designers had to create buildings that were cooled naturally.
Also, the storms and summer rains had to be taken into account. And then there was that other major South Floridian concern - mosquitoes and bugs. Miami Modernist architecture (MiMo) was still a couple of years away too but our home has elements of this budding style. I want to share our lovely home with you so we've been outside with our cellphones enjoying some self-indulgent iPhoneography.
I think I live in paradise. I count my blessings every day; I am so happy that I live here. I honestly think that if I won billions on the lottery, I wouldn't want to move from this wonderful place. (Although I might buy the one next door and knock through!)
CORPORATE HOUSING OR VACATION HOMES?
The apartments are tiny; about 450 square feet. This made me think that they were originally built as vacation homes but I was wrong - they were built as corporate housing. Our area had a huge boom after the Second World War. New industries came to the area and servicemen who had been stationed in South Florida returned to work here. These apartments must have been perfect for the single working man.
Lines and curves
By 1949 the linear look was important. This had been seen in previous years in architectural styles such as Streamline Moderne, a 1930s development of Art Deco. Streamline Moderne had been more curved, incorporating as it did vast curved walls but elements that flowing shape is also to be found on one of the two floating staircases; the one you see here.
SHADOWS AND INTERSECTING LINES
The railings cast wonderful shadows, making new geometric shapes. Thanks to the Florida sunshine, shadows are cast that are different at various times of day. It's like a constantly changing piece of artwork.
See how the lines intersect the circles. The flowing curves of Art Deco were a thing of the past - by 1949 Floridian architecture was featuring perfect circles.
Mosaic & wire furniture
Throughout the complex, walkways and half-landings feature terracotta tiles and mosaic tiles in golden earth tones. These are perfect for Florida and must have been created by hand. What a wonderful touch.
I have no proof of this but I believe that the outdoor wire chairs are more or less original to the building - they are certainly very fitting. Harry Bertoia's 'diamond chairs' were first produced in 1950 and were widely emulated. No idea why but I love excellent chair design so have two reproduction Bertoia chairs in my apartment.
Bertoia Diamond Chair
The outdoor chairs that you see in the photograph are so clearly modeled on the Bertoia Diamond Chair. We have Bertoia side chairs in our home - see below - so we're well aware of the quality since we've had them for for several years. But it's the Diamond Chair that you see here that'l we'll be getting for outdoors. They are not made specifically for outdoor use but are fine located under the building's overhangs and they are SO authentic to the style of the property.
Constantly changing artwork
We use our Bertoia chairs inside and out. You can see from this photograph how the most wonderful shadows are cast. Ten minutes later, the sun has moved and the shadows are different. What a treat this is.
FLORIDA MODERN STYLE
You'll see in our photographs that there are elements of an architectural movement called Florida Modern. This began in the early 1940s and featured some of the elements you see in our home, such as floating staircases and jalousie windows.
A huge feature of mid-century Floridian architecture is the inventive ways of keeping the occupants cool and making the most of gentle breezes. Typical architecture of this time - remember there was no air conditioning - was windows that went around corners.
Each corner features four individual windows and all can be opened horizontally with hand cranks. This means that they can be adjusted to make the most of the breeze and provide lovely fresh air without the need for AC. We have a window air-conditioning unit (one for the whole apartment) but use it only during the night when the temperature is in the upper nineties - that's probably for just a few weeks out of the year.
See how all the walkways and windows are shaded by the overhangs? This means that the sun rarely shines directly into the windows. We get the brightness without getting the heat. When it rains, as it does a lot in the summer, the walkways are still dry and protected.
Everywhere you look you see more. See how the windows reflect the lines of the building, softened by the foliage and palm trees.
PLANTS ARE SO SPECIAL
The architecture is important but it's enhanced by tropical foliage. It's lovely to live in a place that has plants growing outside that are houseplants in other climates! The foliage casts its own shadows on to the walls and onto the paths and walkways providing even more visual interest.
A nautical look
As you've seen, the apartment building is waterfront. The architects who designed it gave the property a nautical air which is very subtle. See how the circles are representative of portholes. The railings are reminiscent of those on a grand ocean liner. This isn't the obvious liner style seen it Art Deco and Streamline Moderne, it's far more subtle.
LIGHT & SHADE
Like the rest of the building, this photograph shows the wonderful interplay between light and shade that changes all the time as the sun moves in the sky. Lines and circles form shadows on the walls. The tropical foliage creates its own shadows and patterns.
As night falls
THE HOUSE AT NIGHT
The house is just as special when the sun has gone down. In the foreground on the left you can see the front door with its jalousies. These can be opened to various angles to catch the breeze. See the upper window - every apartment has horizontal blinds which adds to the linear look.
The light reflects from the yellow-painted building casting its own special glow.
The water at night
LIGHT ON THE WATER
The buildings opposite cast the glow of their light onto the water. The water changes all time time too. Sometimes it's completely calm, sometimes a boat goes by and the water ripples. Even more changes.
Notice how the vertical poles, which are also reminiscent of an ocean liner, cast their own shadows onto the walls and the underside of the staircase. Again, the lines and their shadows intersect each other forming constantly changing visuals.
PALM TREES ENHANCE THE LINEAR LOOK
There are tall palms on the property which add to the vertical linear structure and create their own shadows and intersections. The palm fronds, when silhouetted against the sky, add even more visual drama.
Seen under a new light - another day
This building and the gardens change all the time. Yesterday, there was a late afternoon storm. Afterwards, at about six in the evening, the sun came out. The light was spectacular. That's the amazing thing about where we live. The light was so fabulous, that this meant another iPhone photography session...
LATE AFTERNOON GLOW
See how the buildings take on an almost golden hue. With the sun in the west, it shines through the railing and casts shadows onto the walls. See too how the sun makes the window frames glisten on our apartment on the bottom right of this photograph.
Palms & reflections
TAKEN FROM THE WEST
The sun is behind the phone. See how the palm tress are reflected onto the walls of the building. I love the contrast between the dark clouds in the eastern sky and the sunshine coming from the west. As this was late afternoon the sun was low in the sky.
Sometimes palm fronds seem spiky and angular. At other times, they are graceful and gentle. Again, the reflect beautifully on the walls of the building.
Sometimes, I think that living here is like living in a constantly-changing piece of artwork. The walls, which look plain under other light conditions, are dappled with reflections at times like this when the sun is low.
CREATED BY SUNLIGHT
This photograph would have shown completely different angles and intersections if the phone had been tilted only slightly to the left or the right. Here, the 'plain yellow' walls have dozens of different hues.
The 'floating' staircase is a feature of mid-century buildings. The lines, the angles and the light in the scene are amazing. Once again, the design of the staircase and its railings help to give the building a subtle nautical look.
I don't know if this is really a word but I describe the silhouettes and reflections as 'dapple'. This is because they move as the sun moves and move because of the gentle breeze to create a dappled appearance.
The interior design
The insides of the apartments were also designed for the Florida weather. Floors are made from tile which is cooling. Each tiny apartment has seven windows to let in the light but, because of the overhangs, the heat is kept at bay. The windows and doors are located in such a way that air flows naturally throughout the rooms.
Me in my home
Yes, the take-a-photograph-of-yourself-in-the-mirror shot!
Don't you love my giraffes there on the left? I'm often asked what it's like living in such a small space - it's lovely. We work from home so mostly we are here twenty four hours a day.We're lucky in that we can spend a lot of time outside. We eat lunch outdoors every day.(I did say that we live in paradise!)
Living in a small space is incredibly liberating. We don't have a lot of 'stuff'. Who needs stuff? When you live in a small apartment you prioritize. Do I need all those clothes? No. Do I need to keep memorabilia? Only the most important things. Do I really need those stacks of magazines that I'll never read again? Nope.
I'm pleased that our carbon footprint is tiny. I'm pleased that our power bills are negligible. I'm completely delighted that I can completely clean my apartment in no time at all! Smug? Oh yes!
The iPhone and Hipstamatic
All the photographs you see here were taken on our iPhones. Most were using the Hipstamatic app. What is Hipstamatic? It's a self contained camera app that runs on the iPhone. It is designed so that you can change films, lenses and flash, and perfectly replicates a series of old-fashioned fixed-lens cameras from a bygone era.
Always fun and more than a little challenging to use, it creates beautifully stylish images in a distinctive square format.The square photographs you see on this page used Blanko Freedom film, the Jane lens and Iris Photo Suite was used for adjustments. These apps help to give these photographs a vintage, retro look which is appropriate to the age of the building.
Mid-century modern furniture
In keeping with the architecture of my home, I have several pieces of mid-century modern furniture - repro of course. I bought these online and they add a special touch to our décor. The only one I don't have room for is the Bertoia Diamond chair but it's on my wishlist!