Lapidus, Morris

Alternative names
Birth 1902-11-25
Death 2001-01-18

Biographical notes:

Morris Lapidus, 1902-2001, was born in Russia and moved to New York City's Lower East Side in 1903. He received his architecture degree from Columbia University. Lapidus designed stores, hotels, apartment buildings, and stage sets. He is best known for his South Florida hotels, including the Fontainbleau (1954), Eden Roc (1955), and Americana (1956).

From the description of Morris Lapidus photograph collection, 1929-1992. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 505729831

b. November 25, 1902; d. January 18, 2001.

From the description of Artist file : miscellaneous uncataloged material. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 84205010

Morris Lapidus (1902-2001) was a Russian-born American architect and designer.

Morris Lapidus was born on November 25, 1902 in Odessa, Russia, the son of Estonian and Polish Jews. In 1903, his family immigrated to New York City. They lived in lower Manhattan before moving to Brooklyn, first to Williamsburg and during his high school years to East New York. Lapidus's design sensibility was shaped by his experience of life in New York's tenements and exposure to the spectacle of Coney Island. He graduated from the Boys High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant and enrolled in New York University, intending to purse a degree in drama. He hoped to become an actor but eventually turned his attention to scenic design. He transferred to Columbia University's School of Architecture during the 1920s. Lapidus was deeply interested by - but received little instruction in - the revolutionary modernism of European architects such as Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe and Eliel Saarinen. His first job (while he was still in school) was in the drafting room of Warren and Whetmore, a prominent New York architecture firm.

He received his bachelor's degree in Architecture from Columbia in 1927. He was hired first by the firm Block and Hess, developing the ornamentation for buildings, and then by the architect, Arthur Weiser. Lapidus's big break came when he began to work for Ross-Frankel, a firm that designed storefronts. He began to create distinctive, and very modern, storefronts, which used color and light to draw customers into the store. He also developed a number of characteristic forms known as "cheese holes," "woggles" and "bean poles," which he would continue to use throughout his career.

Lapidus worked for Ross-Frankel for 15 years, finally opening his own office during World War II. He continued to design store fronts until one of his clients introduced him to Ben Novak, who was building a hotel in Miami Beach called the Sans Souci. His work with Novak on the Sans Souci led to other commissions, and Lapidus quickly made a name for himself as the associate architect for a number of hotels in the area: the Nautilus, the DiLido, the Biltmore Terrace and the Algiers. His most famous individually-designed hotels were built during the 1950s, including the Fontainebleau and the Eden Roc. Lapidus used techniques learned in storefront and stage design to create dramatic public spaces that provided guests with a sense of adventure and escape.

In addition to hotels he worked on other public spaces, such as the 1960 redesign of Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, turning it into one of the nation's first pedestrian malls. He also built office buildings, private residences, and community and religious buildings, although they were a smaller percentage of his architectural output. Lapidus continued to enjoy a lucrative and international career in hotel design throughout the 1970s. He retired in 1983, at which time he destroyed most of his drawings.

Lapidus often found himself at odds with an architectural establishment that favored some version of Modernism. His reputation began to be resuscitated with An Architecture of Joy, a controversial exhibition of his work mounted by the Architectural League of New York in 1970. Beginning in 1994, he worked with architect, Deborah Desilets, who devoted herself to changing the critical perception of Lapidus's work. Both Lapidus and Desilets gave many lectures on his legacy, and together they designed furniture and a night club, Aura, at 613 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, FL.

Lapidus married his wife, Beatrice Perlman, in 1929. The couple had two sons, Richard, a lawyer, and Alan who followed in his father's footsteps and became an architect. Morris Lapidus died at home after an accidental fall, on January 18, 2001 at the age of 98.

From the guide to the Morris Lapidus Papers, circa 1915-2010, (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)


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  • Architectural photography
  • Russian Americans
  • Stores, Retail--Designs and plans
  • Architecture--Designs and plans
  • Architecture--Human factors
  • Architectural design
  • Painting--United States--20th century
  • Architects
  • Architectural drawing--20th century--United States
  • Architecture, American
  • Architecture--United States--History--20th century
  • Architectural firms
  • Architects--United States
  • Architecture--Vocational guidance
  • Furniture designers
  • Architecture--Psychological aspects
  • Hotels--Designs and plans
  • Architect-designed furniture
  • Hotels
  • Architectural practice
  • Architecture--United States


  • Architect


  • Florida--Miami Beach (as recorded)
  • Florida (as recorded)