Morris Lapidus, 98, the architect of 250 hotels, including some of Florida's most outlandish resorts, who lived to see his flamboyant, often-criticized style gain a measure of respect, died Jan. 18 in his apartment in Miami Beach. The cause of death was not specified.
Mr. Lapidus spent 20 years as a retail designer before turning to architecture, and before he retired in 1984, he had designed 1,200 buildings. Among them was the hotel on Washington's Thomas Circle that is now called Washington Plaza, which features a curved white facade.
Lapidus's architecture was distinguished by a showmanship and theatrical aesthetic that thrilled pleasure-seeking guests, even as critics dismissed it as commercial and vulgar.
His first, and most famous, hotel was Miami's Fontainbleau. The resort, with its Hollywood-inspired version of Old World style, would later be used in scenes for "Goldfinger," the 1964 James Bond film.
It, too, featured a sweeping, curved facade. Inside, it was a riot of color, with marble floors laid out in a bow-tie pattern and baroque crystal chandeliers.
In an age of austere functionality, critics derided his work as "superschlock," "High Kitsch" and "Miami Beach French." Mr. Lapidus shrugged it off, proudly calling the Fontainebleau "the world's most pretentious hotel."
"I was a rebel. I refused to go along with building boxes. I liked curves and sweeping lines," he told Reuters in a 1997 interview. "I say that architecture used to have three dimensions, length, width and height. But there is a fourth dimension, and that is motion. . . . It curved. It swept. It swooped."
Subtlety and restraint were anathema to Lapidus. His philosophy was, "If you like ice cream, why stop at one scoop? Have two; have three."
His other glitzy Miami Beach resorts included the Eden Roc and the Americana, now called the Sheraton Bal Harbour.
Unexpected, fanciful elements often appear in Lapidus buildings. "Cheese hole" openings dot the walls. Amoeba-like cutouts drop from ceilings, and exposed "beanpole" supports are incorporated into the design. Walls curve. Columns end in halos of light, and stairs seem to float in space.
"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," he said.
Though widely respected abroad and honored by a 1970 Architectural League exhibit in New York, Mr. Lapidus never felt accepted by his peers in the era when most architects favored the clean lines and spare rectangles of modern style.
"The critics, they just not only didn't like my work, they couldn't say enough horrible things about me," he recalled. "I was never published for over 30 years in any architectural book or magazine. I was anathema."
But Mr. Lapidus and his style recently had experienced a renaissance. His autobiography, "Too Much is Not Enough," was published in 1996, and a new generation of architects was reexamining his style. He was honored by the Society of Architectural Historians in June at a convention at the Eden Roc hotel.
"These are not boxes dressed up. They are interesting forms, interesting spaces, aware of the orientation of views and breezes, maximizing space," Christopher Mead, the president of the society, said.
Mr. Lapidus was named an American Original by the Smithsonian Institution's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in its first national design awards, and he visited the White House in September to acknowledge the honor.
Mr. Lapidus was born in Odessa, Russia, and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y. He attended New York University, where a role in a student play piqued his interest in set design and launched him on a course of architectural study at Columbia University.
His wife, Beatrice Lapidus, died in 1992. Survivors include two sons.