Miami museum showcases generation of homes

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MIAMI -- The most immediate medium of culture is the home, and now through Jan. 23, visitors here can explore a generation of Florida family life by visiting replicas of their homes.

The Florida Home: Modern Living, 1945-1965, the current exhibit at the Historical Museum of Southern Florida (HMSF), shines a spotlight on the design of single-family homes of the period after World War II.

It was a tremendously optimistic time period, said Steve Stuempfle, HMSFs chief curator. The war was over. Before the war, Mediterranean revival architecture was popular, which looked to the past.

But this looked to the future. It was a different mindset and way of life. There were parallels throughout the U.S., but we had our own subtropical version.

At the museum, visitors can enter a house, sit on period couches and chairs and watch old television footage and home movies.

Theres a sort of revival of that period going on now, said Stuempfle. But its one thing to see drawing and photographs; its another thing to immerse yourself in it.

Featured architects, including Igor Polevitzky, Alfred Browning Parker, Rufus Nims, Norman Giller, Russell Pancoast and George Reed, reflected the visions and aspirations of their clients with styles that embodied their optimism and belief in the future.

Architects active in Miami after the war were interested in creating a house that was very open to the outdoors, so they used a lot of sliding doors; louvered windows; big, screened-in porches and patios; anything that would bring in breezes, said Stuempfle. But they did it in a modernist way, with streamlined surfaces and lines without the ornamentation of earlier styles.

Guest-curated by University of Miami School of Architecture professors Jean-Francois Lejeune and Allan Shulman, the exhibition includes architectural drawings, photographs, furniture, appliances and representations of Florida homes in popular magazines and TV shows.

During September, the museum will conduct a series of related educational programs, including lectures, slide presentations, panel discussions, family activity days and tours of postwar neighborhoods and homes in the Miami area.

In the summer of 2005, the exhibition will travel to the Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee.

The Historical Museum of Southern Florida is located in downtown Miami, within walking distance of Bayside. For more information, call (305) 375-1492.

To contact reporter David Cogswell, send e-mail to [email protected].

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