Too (and not JUST 2) Much is Never Enough

Tiki 2010
January 2, 2010
Detroit and Public Transportation?
January 5, 2010

Too (and not JUST 2) Much is Never Enough

With all due apologies to Morris Lapidus for mangling the title to his autobiography.

Morris Lapidus is best known as the architect who defined the Mid-Century Miami Beach look with his Iconic Fontainebleau Hotel, Eden Roc Hotel and Lincoln Road Mall. He is less known as a set and costume designer for theatre, but, like us, those are his roots.

Architect Alan Lapidus, worked with his father for 18 years and tied it all together; “His theory was if you create the stage setting and it’s grand, everyone who enters will play their part. I will play the part of the rich and successful mogul. I could be James Bond in the Fontainebleau.” (Goldfinger” was filmed there).

Lapidus’ work always delighted his audiences and made architecture critics grumble. Perhaps an indication that he was on to something. Not always, the critics aren’t always wrong and the public isn’t always right. In this case, we have to give it to the public, although some of the critics have come around. Not all, and certainly not all of the public; otherwise modernism would not be in danger of being eradicated.

Hollywood loved and loves Lapidus’, film makers and  stars alike. The public looking for elegant resorts love his spaces. This is modernism on steroids. At once elegant, simple and spare, simultaneously lush.

“If you like ice cream, why stop at one scoop? Have two, have three. Too much is never enough,” he was fond of saying.

Lapidus’ signature style was defined by curves, amoeba-like shapes he called “woggles” and cutouts known as “cheese holes” — design elements still used by many. Including us. Judiciously, of course. For me, he is all about the curves. Nothing moves a viewer or visitor’s eye like sweeping and dramatic curves. Or the illusion of that drama when the space is small.

While the Fontainebleau is important an iconic and known to many, it is less key than a small retail structure on the South-West Corner of University Place and East 14th Street in New York City has always been to me. I knew the building as home to Paterson Silks, a fabric outlet that I frequented. I did not, when I was young understand why I thought the structure so compelling. The front corner was very cool and glass, the University Place side a bit prisonesque.

The building did not seem to fit into the more turn of the last century neighborhood. The building in no way seemed to have been meant for discount retail. It seemed very first class.

When I discovered Paterson Silks, I knew of the Fontainebleau and the Eden Roc from visits and films. I did not know of Lapidus, who soon became one of the many architects and designers who have influenced our work.

Before he became known for his work at the 1939 World’s Fair and his hotel projects, Lapidus designed a number of retail spaces in New York. Paterson Silks was designed as a shoe store. It has, unfortunately been destroyed. It could have been renovated and reused as a dramatic structure.

Modernism continues to be an inspiration. As Preservationists, we look to see more acknowledgement of the importance of these structures, at least until history has time to render an artistic judgement.

In the meantime, we encourage you to become familiar with an important architect and set designer who brought drama and theatre to the public.


  1. Contemporary Homes rule!