Thursday, October 4, 2007
Everything By Design, by Alan Lapidus--a review
I received and just read an advance copy of Alan Lapidus's new memoir, Everything by Design: My Life as an Architect. Lapidus is an architect for the rich and famous, a designer of hotels, casinos, and other large buildings for the likes of Donald Trump, Aristotle Onassis, John Tishman, and the Disney corporation.
Alan Lapidus is also the son of the architect Morris Lapidus, best known for his fantasy hotels the Fontainebleau and the Eden Roc in Miami. The elder Lapidus's style was loved by his consumers, but denigrated by critics as schlock. And though his son Alan worked with him for years, Morris Lapidus could only be described as difficult, as a father and as a business partner.
But even if Alan got almost no recognition from his father, he did learn valuable lessons about crowd-pleasing from him. Alan’s buildings are highly functional, and they have flair. And he is a great storyteller. You get the feeling that his friends listened to his stories about his life and work and said, “You’ve got to write a book about this.”
Lapidus doesn’t write about design per se, but he does write in a readable style about the logic he employs in designing his buildings, and how these buildings do or don’t get built. He also takes us behind the scenes in places like Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and Disney World, which are places that have their own logic and rules, are almost never seen by the public, and are fascinating to hear about. Also fun to read about are the personalities of the people, companies and institutions Lapidus has designed for, including Donald Trump, Bob Guccione, Michael Eisner and the rest of Disney, the CIA, and many others. He talks about the red tape he has had to cut through, the corporate cultures he’s had to navigate, and the cultural barriers he has had to straddle. It’s all very entertaining, both as a personal memoir and as a look at the foibles and excesses of the real estate world of the late twentieth century.