Exert from the “City of Coral Gables Design Handbook”
“The Mediterranean Style Design Standards provide a strong emphasis on aesthetics and architectural design with regulations that encourage the planned mixing of uses to establish identity, diversity and focus to promote a pedestrian friendly environment. This is accomplished through the utilization of a variety of architectural attributes”
That is about all the detail the official guide provides, leaving the actual definitions up to the Architectural Review Board. The guide does provide a number of images that are supposed to help identity this suggested style that is at the heart of Coral Gables architecture.
A better description of the style would probably be the Mizner style; after architect Addison Mizner, who shaped much of Palm Beach, and South Florida with his interpretation of the Spanish Colonial Revisal style. Best definition can be found on Wikipedia:
“Spanish Colonial Revival architecture is characterized by a combination of detail from several eras of Spanish Baroque, Spanish Colonial, Moorish Revival and Mexican Churrigueresque architecture, the style is marked by the prodigious use of smooth plaster (stucco) wall and chimney finishes, low-pitched clay tile, shed, or flat roofs, and terracotta or cast concrete ornaments. Other characteristics typically include small porches or balconies, Roman or semi-circular arcades and fenestration, wood casement or tall, double–hung windows, canvas awnings, and decorative iron trim.”
Indeed there are many visual examples found within the city and other parts of South Florida. It remains a visually dominant, yet climate inappropriate style. Even the outdoor spaces, porches and other outdoor features that encourage embracing the local climate, seem out of place these days.
The columns and finishes typically associate with the style no longer represent the means of construction from which they originated and the barrel tile roof has proven a hurricane nightmare.
With all the downsides of this historic style, the beauty and architectural balance of these buildings cannot be denied.
With a strong focus on sustainable and regionally appropriate design, S.E.A. generally moves away from this style in lieu of more appropriate design and construction features.