Via the New York Times:
No American architect in the 20th century embraced more flamboyantly the flagrantly commercial aspect of design than did Morris Lapidus, who titled his autobiography "Too Much Is Never Enough."
Lapidus (pronounced LAP-i-dus), who died at age 98 in 2001, was long derided but later praised for designing some of South Florida's gaudiest, glitziest and most glamorous hotels — including the Fontainebleau, the Americana and the Eden Roc — in the 1950s and 1960s.
His style was mockingly called Miami Beach French, and critics scorned the ''obscene panache'' with which he created what they called his palaces of kitsch, many of which have been razed or remodeled. But as Miami Beach underwent a renaissance, becoming a trendy place for the jet set, the critical winds blew in his direction. After being shunned by architecture critics and architects for much of his long career, he and his work are now referred to with respect by a new generation of writers and postmodernist architects — among them Rem Koolhaas and Philippe Starck. He had been, several critics decided, ''a postmodernist long before the term existed.''
Lapidus was steeped in classical architecture, but he created an eye-catching mixture of French Provincial and Italian Renaissance — with whiplash-curve facades and a splashy use of color — and he lavished ornament upon ornament. His most famous work was the Fontainebleau, built in 1954. Its interiors combined 27 colors. It had what was called a staircase to nowhere that actually led to a modest cloakroom, so that dinner guests could leave their coats and parade down in their sparkling jewelry and decolletage to the delighted stares of the crowds in the hotel's lobby. The hotel was once called ''the nation's grossest national product.'' But Lapidus dismissed all critical jibes. He proudly referred to the Fontainebleau as ''the world's most pretentious hotel.''
Architectural understatement was not his style. He put live alligators in a terrarium in the lobby of the Americana, he said, so that guests would ''know they were in Florida.''
''I wanted people to walk in and drop dead,'' he said of his celebrated hotel lobbies. His work, he said, ''set new standards, and a lot of old-line critics didn't agree with me.'' By the 1980s, though, he said, that had changed, ''because everyone is doing the unusual now.''
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