Although architecture in Florida is generally thought to be of the “strip mall and high-rise condo” school, there are several places in the state that architecture buffs will definitely want to explore. This itinerary crams a lot of geography into a few days, but will allow easy excursions into some of the other highlights in Florida.
The historic architecture of Fernandina Beach may not have the same pedigree as the buildings in St. Augustine, but either north Atlantic city is a good place to start a tour of Florida’s architectural styles. The quirky houses (think livable fake lighthouses) that line the shore in Fernandina Beach are quite different from the 50 blocks of downtown buildings that are home to Greek revival, frame-vernacular, Italianate, and High-Victorian style buildings.
In St. Augustine there are more Spanish-style buildings, many of which date to the 16th and 17th centuries, and the ornate main building of Flagler College is a fantastic example of the gorgeous Mediterranean revival style that Henry Flagler preferred for his hotel properties.
In the Sarasota area, about four hours southwest of St. Augustine, the tour continues with an abundance of futuristic mid-century architectural marvels. There are scores of gorgeous and innovative buildings in the Sarasota area, many of which were designed by a confederacy of architects known as the Sarasota School. Examples of the school’s work can be seen throughout the city of Sarasota, and they all evoke a vision that’s both utilitarian and beautiful.
The final stop on this tour is the crown jewel of Florida’s architecture scene, the art deco buildings of Miami Beach and South Beach. The stories of how these 1930s icons were rescued from dilapidation and decay are legendary, but the effect of seeing so many refurbished treasures in one place—especially at night, when many of them are lit with clean lines of green, pink, and purple neon—is stunning.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition