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November 25: Architect of Collins Avenue

November 25, 2015

10390297756_c65aedec7eMorris Lapidus, an architect who designed more than 1,200 buildings, including 250 hotels worldwide and much of the skyline of Miami Beach, was born in Odessa on this date in 1902. Lapidus studied architecture at Columbia University and was doing mostly interior design for twenty years until Miami beckoned: In 1952, he designed the largest luxury hotel in Miami Beach, the Fontainebleau, a 1,200-room building shown at left, and in 1953, the Eden Roc. Ultimately Lapidus designed many of the hotels on Miami’s Collins Avenue, known as the “Gold Coast” of Miami Beach. Among his other projects were the Concord Hotel in the Catskills, the Capital Skyline Hotel in Washington, DC, Congregation Shaare Zion in Brooklyn, the Lincoln Road pedestrian mall in Miami’s South Beach, and at least two cruise ships. His work was much scorned by architectural critics, however, for its gaudiness and kitschy qualities, and he ended up bitterly burning fifty years of his drawings when he retired in 1983. In later decades, however, he was seen by some as a father of post-modern architecture.

“Once dismissed for his stylistic excesses, today Lapidus is revered for his joyful subversion of European modernism through a uniquely American vernacular of entertainment, spectacle, and whimsy.” —Jason Rubinstein