Siminetti luxury mother-of-pearl tiles

Iconic 1500 Ocean Drive Finally Gets its Pearl Necklace

In the late 1990’s, when world renowned architect and designer Michael Graves set out to design the luxury condominium building in South Beach that would become one of the crowning achievements of his extensive career, he was hopeful that it would turn out exactly as he had envisaged it: a postmodernist icon that stood at the border between land and sea, with elements that anchored it to South Beach, and others that called it to the ocean. A design that resembled a ship; threatening, at any moment, to break free of its 15th Street mooring, and set out to sea.

By and large, he got what he wished for, a South Beach landmark that is the backdrop for countless photo shoots, and one of the buildings that is most admired by the Miami Beach residents and visitors who walk, drive, and take bus tours on Ocean Drive.

He did, however, have one regret. One of his most cherished ideas, never made the final cut: a visually stunning, fourth floor swimming pool, shaped like a wave, and adorned in mother-of-pearl tile; the final flourish of his land-sea thematic vision. Instead, the pool received a pretty standard concrete treatment and remained, for the last 20 years, a utilitarian, but less than overwhelming feature of the building.

Although Michael Graves has since passed away, this year, his long-standing dream finally came true. In February, Ron Maheu, the President of the 1500 Ocean Drive Condominium Association, and Harold Rosenbaum, its Treasurer and Building Committee Chair, jointly announced that the long awaited pool renovation project had been successfully completed.

Almost 4 years in the making, the pool renovation was not without its challenges. Almost as soon as it started, the project ran headlong into a raft of structural issues, and the cosmetic renovation project quickly became a full blown construction saga that required the intervention of a multi-disciplinary team of architects and consulting engineers, and a procession of successive contractors. In essence, just about every plot twist that you would expect from a “renovation nightmare” television show. Several successive Boards struggled to complete the job. However, when Maheu and Rosenbaum jointly took over the reins of the construction project, they were determined to deliver the pool before their mandate ended in March 2021. According to Maheu: “It seems that many projects in South Beach cost more than expected, and take longer than expected. This was obviously a challenge for us. Luckily we had a very highly motivated team, and everyone was focused on achieving this objective”.

With mother-of-pearl mosaic tile supplied by the Siminetti Luxury Tile Company of England, and installed by local craftspeople, the refurbished pool finally lost its concrete skin, and emerged as an iridescent lagoon of white mother-of-pearl mosaic tile with black trim, that literally shimmers in the sunlight, and projects an oasis of calm and relaxation, when lit by its computer-controlled evening lights.

As mother-of-pearl had only been previously used on one major pool project (the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale Arizona), some residents were originally skeptical about the suitability of the material. Today, however, everyone seems to be on board. As Rosenbaum puts it: “Once all is said and done, all of our owners and guests seem to agree that the final result is not only visually stunning, but that it speaks directly to Michael Graves’ postmodernist vision. It looks like a win-win for all concerned”.

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