BUILDING A DAY: October 21, 2014

Miami Beach, Florida

Architect: Morris Lapidus
Photos: University of Florida Digital Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, Fontainebleau

?Lapidus was inspired by early developments in European modernism, particularly the work of the German architect Erich Mendelssohn, who he described as his teacher. During the late 1920s, Mendelssohn designed several well-publicized commercial buildings in Germany. Lapidus wrote: ?I found in his work a tremendous desire to break loose from cubistic and rectangular buildings. His sweeping, curving undulating buildings excited me, and he had a profound influence on my career.?
Landmarks Preservation Commission
May 17, 2005

The Fontainebleau Hotel (1954), designed by Morris Lapidus, is thought to be the most significant building of his career. Lapidus designed the iconic curvilinear 546-room luxury hotel using the same principles he had used in his many years in store and retail design. With its sweeping spaces, curved walls and dramatic lighting, guests were provided a continuously moving spatial experience that invited them to seek out ?what was next.? The Fontainebleau significantly changed the design and experience of the resort hotel and its influence can still be seen in luxury resort design of today.

Lapidus proudly referred to the Fontainebleau as ”the world’s most pretentious hotel.” It featured ?stairs to nowhere? to allow guests to see and be seen as they descended from the coat closet, a 17,000 square foot lobby and manicured gardens to replicate Versailles. Even though his work was criticized much of his career for its lavish and theatrical interiors, he and his work are now referred to with respect by architects and designers such as Rem Koolhaas and Philippe Starck.

Lapidus studied architecture at Columbia University and then started his career in retail architecture in the 1920’s for Warren and Wetmore. He worked independently for 20 years and was approached to design hotels in Miami Beach by developer Ben Novack. Lapidus was a prolific architect and he did a significant amount of work in Miami Beach including the Miami Beach Sans Souci Hotel, the Nautilus, the Di Lido, the Biltmore Terrace, the Algiers, Eden Roc Hotel, and the Americana hotel.

In 2008 the Fontainebleau underwent a $1 billion renovation that increased the number of hotel suites, restaurants, amenities and updated the six-acre landscape.

In 2007, the Fontainebleau Hotel was ranked ninety-third in the American Institute of Architects list of “America’s Favorite Architecture”. In 2008, the Fontainebleau was added to the US National Register of Historic Places and in 2012, the AIA’s Florida Chapter ranked the Fontainebleau first on its list of Florida Architecture: 100 Years, 100 Places.

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