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A Day at Fountainebleau – Miami Beach

At long last, the Fountainebleu!

The Fountaineblau hotel is one of the most historic and architecturally significant buildings on Miami Beach. It was designed by Morris Lapidus and opened in 1954. It was completely fabulous in a way that horrified the architectural establishment at the time – but the public got it and loved it. Plus, over the years it has been featured in a number of films, including Scarface and Goldfinger.

Morris Lapidus is a maximalist modernist through and through (in Europe they call this style “googie”). His autobiography published in 1996 is called Too Much is Never Enough.

Brass seahorse door handles on the main lobby of the Fountainebleau. The seahorse also represents the “F” of Fountainebleau. Also note the signature bow tie marble paving in the lobby. The bow tie form was a signature of Lapidus, and he used the shape in a variety of ways in different buildings.

If you create a stage and it is grand, everyone who enters will play their part. – Morris Lapidus

A field of circular windows on the front facade of the hotel create an under sea/under water feeling of floating in light bubbles in the dappled light of the convention center lobby. I found it irresistible, even as an adult, to dart about and play within the light “bubbles”. Note: I called them “bubbles” but Lapidus called them “woggles” and “cheeseholes“.


In 2008 the hotel re-opened after a two-year, 1 BILLION dollar renovation. The original paving remains in the lobby. A new chandelier echos the”woggles” and “cheeseholes” in the adjacent space. And a new tryptic of James Turrell pieces can be seen behind the front desk.

My friend, Brant Ritter of Thoreen&Ritter installed the series of light pieces for James Turrell at the Fountainebleau. An artist, furniture designer, restaurant designer, etc. he has a cool side gig of being one of the very few people James Turrell trusts to install his work. So Brant gets to jet off to fabulous places like Tokyo or the Fountainebleau to play with light.

There are three light sculptures behind the front desk, and several more groups of them along the hall to the main lobby. In the main lobby there are additional light pieces behind the concierge.


Jonathan checking out one of the Turrell pieces. It is hard to capture the color. It slowly morphs from one color palette to another.



This is a detail of the light sculpture and the color in this photo is more accurate to how it looks in real life.

More light sculptures. I love how the light reflects off the marble floors and makes the whole space change color.


Jonathan luxuriating. The famous “stairway to nowhere” is in the background.

“My whole success is I’ve always been designing for people, first because I wanted to sell them merchandise. Then when I got into hotels, I had to rethink, what am I selling now? You’re selling a good time.” – Lapidus


People watching in the main lobby. I love the custom carpets.


The iconic curved shaped facade from the beach side. The huge new pool was part of the renovation and is shaped like a bow tie in honor of Lapidus.

On the boardwalk at the Fountainebleau, soaking up Miami Beach. + Can’t wait to visit more Lapidus hotels!

 I had a good time. Thanks a million Morris.