Most Lincoln Road visitors are so busy shopping, dining and ogling the barely dressed bodies of leggy locals, they overlook the quirky black and white modernist structures that punctuate the public spaces running along the center of the pedestrian-friendly mall. Our central shopping district was the whimsical brainchild of Miami architect Morris Lapidus (1902-2001) who is celebrated this month at the ArtCenter/ South Florida with the exhibit, “A Quest for Emotion and Motion in Architecture: A Look at Morris Lapidus.”
The show coincides with the 2010 American Institute of Architects Convention which kicks off at the Miami Beach Convention Center June 8-12. Attendees include Architects, Designers, Planners, Suppliers, Builders, Contractors and Landscape Architects from all over the world. Miami was selected as a host city because of its diverse culture and ethnicity, its status as a gateway to Latin America and its distinctive architectural styles like Art Deco and MiMo (Miami Modernism), Morris Lapidus’ particular trademark.
Lapidus’ innovative designs are particularly important in the nine resorts he created on Miami Beach along with over 200 more worldwide. The Lincoln Road gallery exhibit underscores that the Eden Roc and Fontainebleau Resorts on fabulous Collins Avenue were groundbreaking in the world of architecture because their whimsical touches engaged people to consider buildings as more than utilitarian structures. As the city developed from the low-rise vistas of our pastel Art Deco district, the modern and even futuristic designs of the Nautilus, DiLido, Sans Souci and Algiers Hotels stood out because they dared to challenge popular notions of building design.
Lapidus is noted for his use of sweeping curves, walls with swiss cheese holes, backlit floating ceilings, and unorthodox shapes he referred to as “woggles.” The Fontainebleau Hotel is arguably his most famous local project with its distinctive round shape and dazzling hotel lobby with a “stairway to nowhere” that allowed well-dressed guests to make a grand entrance. Calling upon his early successes in retail store design, Lapidus translated the appeal of a positive selling environment into all his resorts which he surmised were in the business of selling a good time.
The ArtCenter exhibit focuses upon the Miami Beach resorts and highlights Lapidus’ ability to push beyond the barriers of functional architecture. Stop by to view historic photographs, design notes and sketches by the man behind Miami Beach’s remarkable hotels. Afterwards, pay a little more attention to the unique structures that stand between the shops all along Lincoln Road Mall. They remain a testament to Morris Lapidus’ daring redesign dating back to 1960 and stand as a testament to his timeless vision.
ArtCenter / South Florida is located at 800 Lincoln Road. The exhibit “A Quest for Emotion and Motion in Architecture: A Look at Morris Lapidus” runs through July 18.