The Eden Roc Resort in Miami Beach is getting a complete renovation including a new 21-story hotel tower on the southern edge of the property that borders the Fontainebleau hotel. This expansion will bring the Eden Roc Resort to a total of 632 rooms and will rectify one of the most famous architectural feuds in the history of Miami Beach.
Background: Architect Morris Lapidus was commissioned to design the Fontainebleau hotel by hotelier Ben Novack in the mid-1950s. After the Fontainebleau was finished and on its way to becoming the signature destination in Miami Beach, Lapidus was then commissioned by Novack’s former partner Harry Mufson—they had built the Sans Souci together—to construct the Eden Roc hotel right next to the Fontainebleau.
Upon hearing this, Novack swore never to speak to Lapidus again, and as for Mufson, well Novack had a special surprise for him. In 1962 Novack constructed the “spite wall,” a 14-story addition to the Fontainebleau that sat right on the edge of the Eden Roc’s property line. The effect was that the spite wall blocked the sun from the Eden Roc’s pool and cabana area for much of the afternoon.
But it didn’t stop there. The spite wall was constructed so that the hotel rooms it contained faced south toward the Fontainebleau, which meant that the entire back side of the building that faced the Eden Roc was nothing more than a blank concrete wall. Well actually, the spite wall did contain one small group of windows—the windows from Ben Novack’s special suite where he could look down on the Eden Roc and gloat…
As for the current renovation taking place, a minor problem has developed between the hotel’s owners and the City of Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board concerning the balcony railings on the existing hotel shown below.
The current Morris Lapidus-designed railings are solid concrete and don’t allow guests to view the ocean when seated in their rooms. The developer wants to change the railings from their original solid construction to a glass material that would allow full view of the ocean and pool area for guests, yet still retain as much of the original lines of the building as possible.
While it seems obvious that the developer should be allowed to switch to the new guest-friendly railings, the City of Miami Beach holds very strong views concerning preservation of the city’s unique architectural heritage, especially any structure designed by Morris Lapidus.
The Eden Roc’s owners say that the issue is one of economics, as there is currently a $100 per night price differential between rooms which allow a full ocean views and those that don’t. The City says changing the railings would alter the entire character of the building and such a drastic change won’t be approved.
Hopefully, a solution can be found that accomplishes both goals. Additionally, one has to wonder whether or not Lapidus himself would have used the glass material had it been available back in 1956. No one knows for sure, but one thing is for certain, and that is, the Eden Roc hotel is an architectural masterpiece that personifies a shining moment in Miami Beach history—and it should be preserved to the greatest extent possible.
Both the Eden Roc Resort and its neighbor the Fontainebleau (which is also being expanded) occupy one of the most pristine stretches of ocean-front that exists in Miami Beach, and once construction is completed on these two great hotels, we predict the mid-beach area between 44th and 46th Streets will once again become the center of attention for glamorous Miami Beach travel just as it was during the “swinging-sixties.”