|by Augustus Mayhew
Built in 1954, the Fontainebleau Hotel's original chateau building remains and after a $1 billion renovation the resort now features 1,500 rooms, new condo towers, eleven restaurants and lounges, a 40,000-square-foot spa and meeting spaces for 3,000 visitors.
Lapidus, whose autobiography was aptly named, "Too Much is Never Enough," was a Columbia School of Architecture graduate who spent years designing storefronts and retail displays before rendering his masterpiece, the Fontainebleau, a decorative Mid-century Miami Modern (MiMo), ersatz Versailles Provincial, now transformed into today's au courant Viva Las Vegas style.
Following its November red carpet Victoria's Secret-Mariah Carey opening and during Art Basel, I heard grumblings that the hotel's grand opening was less than grand, causing guests to leave with a suitcase full of Fawlty Towers anecdotes.
Nevertheless, during my recent daytime visit the Vida restaurant was jammed, not only every table filled but the food looked sensational, the cabana flat panels were tuned on and guests appeared to be enjoying themselves, the chaise lounges full. Surprisingly, there is more of the original than I expected, and although I tend towards Key Biscayne and Coral Gables more than Miami Beach, the Fontainebleau provides a central Collins Avenue getaway for cold weather escapees, close enough to the all-night South Beach scene yet far enough where you can actually sleep. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Lapidus several times, outspoken, irreverent and self-deprecating, and though much of his playful interior visual slapstick is gone, I think he would like the 21st-century Fontainebleau.
|Photographs by Augustus Mayhew|