This honor—created especially for the first National Design Awards—is bestowed on individuals who have achieved the feat of becoming cultural icons by taking highly personal, even iconoclastic, paths to hone a unique vision of design.

Morris Lapidus, 1902-2001

Morris Lapidus studied acting at New York University and architecture at Columbia University before embarking on one of the most dramatic careers in the history of American architecture. Today the architect is best known for his design of two of the most glamorous postwar resort hotels in Miami Beach, the Fontainebleau (1954) and the Eden Roc (1955); for inventing the modern storefront; and for a large body of work that includes office buildings, apartment complexes, stores, hotels, and stage sets. It is hard to believe that Lapidus was once dismissed for his stylistic excesses. Today his joyful subversion of European modernism through a uniquely American vernacular of entertainment, spectacle, and whimsy is admired and studied by a new generation of architects. An American original, Morris Lapidus has turned Vitruvius’s trinity of classical architectural principles—commodity, firmness, and delight—on its head, putting delight at the apex of the experience of architecture.

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