Edifice Rex

The establishment hated him, but resort-goers thought his designs were the best thing since room service. If it was fun, funky, and Fifties in Miami Beach, chances are Morris Lapidus dreamed it up.

"He goes into the paint store and says, 'What's the most attractive, magnetic color you have here?'" 23-year-old restaurateur Jennifer Rubell observes. "The phrase 'in bad taste' is not an issue for him. He doesn't have that kind of taste problem, those restrictions. I never would have anticipated that he'd go for Day-Glo colors and black floor. People get hemmed in to a certain type of statement; Morris's stuff is so diverse. He's also interested in having palpable relevance to the younger generation. I think he wants to have an influence on the younger generation."

The project hasn't proceeded without some artistic and practical confrontations stemming from philosophical differences. For one thing, Jennifer Rubell had to convince Lapidus that booths were appropriate for an upscale restaurant. "Banquettes used to be associated with the shittiest diners," she explains. "Now they have another meaning." Plans for the restaurant now include three booths. "We have a certain routine," she says, grinning. "I bring him brunch and then during the meal I say, 'So, Morris....' I suggest that maybe the banquettes will be a certain way. He'll say, 'Absolutely not! If the banquettes are like that, I'm walking off the job!' Then I'll say, 'I wouldn't do anything that would make you walk off the job, Morris.' We work it out like that."

Just as Lapidus's return to the mall has given new life and relevance to his 35-year-old mall design, the restaurant project has restored some creative energy in his life. "He turned to me once over brunch," recalls Jennifer Rubell, "and said, 'You know, after my wife died, I really didn't think I was going to go on. This project has really given me a reason to go on.'

"The one thing that's really upsetting," she adds, "is that this will be the only piece of architecture that's exactly as Morris designed it.

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