Morris Lapidus (November 25, 1902 - January 18, 2001) was the architect of curvy, flamboyant Neo-baroque moderne hotels that defined the 1950s ‘Miami Beach’ resort hotel style.
As a young man, Lapidus toyed with theatrical set design and studied architecture at Columbia University. He worked for 20 years as a retail designer before moving to Miami Beach in the 1940s and designing his first buildings.
After a career in innovative retail interior design, his first large commission was the Miami Beach Sans Souci Hotel, followed closely by the Nautilus, the Di Lido, the Biltmore Terrace, and the Algiers, all along Collins Avenue, and amounting to the single-handed redesign of an entire district. The hotels were an immediate popular success. Then in 1952 he landed the job of the largest luxury hotel in Miami Beach, the property he is most associated with, the Fontainebleau Hotel, which was followed the next year by the equally successful Eden Roc and the Americana (now the Sheraton Bal Harbour) in 1956.
Lapidus designed 1,200 buildings, including 250 hotels worldwide. The architectural establishment, wedded to its doctrinaire expressions of International Modernism, tried to ignore his work, then characterized it as gaudy kitsch. This abusive critical reception culminated in a 1963 American Institute of Architects (AIA) meeting held at the Americana, where a variety of well-known architects insulted Lapidus to his face, in one of his own hotels.