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Book Review: Everything by Design: Alan Lapidus Memoir for the Architect on your Christmas List?

Published by Vernell Yamashiro

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Everything by Design: Ego on Parade

An architect’s ego is what gives him or her the ability to sell a vision, which begins as a concept, evolves into lines on paper, and grows into concrete and steel, often at monumental cost. Architect Alan Lapidus is no exception, and in his autobiography, Everything By Design, his ego overpowers his prose.

How Architects Shape Humanity

It couldn’t be helped one supposes, considering that his stint at Columbia began with the college dean dismissing thousands of years of art, music and literature by stating, that, architects are. . .”part of an ancient group of artisans who are the only ones to have left behind the chronicle of mankind, speaking to future ages in a universal language that explained to generations yet unborn, how they lived, how they labored, and in what they believed.”

You Start With a Million Dollars. . .

Not only is he a famous architect who travels in exalted circles, he is. . “a pilot, skydiver, author, chef, CIA operative and volunteer cop.” Mr. Lapidus has had a long and successful career in the field of hospitality architecture which began in the office of his father, Morris Lapidus, designer of the ground-breaking Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida. It couldn’t have been easy working for his father who had a healthy ego of his own, and was more interested in fatherhood in theory than in practice, but the difficulties of a young architect starting out in his fathers successful business fail to impress. Like those of his pal Donald, they remind you of the old joke about how to become a billionaire, which goes, start with a million dollars. . .

Donald Trump’s Architect

His clients include Donald Trump, Michael Eisner, Bill Zekendorf, John Tishman, Aristotle Onassis, Sophia Loren and husband Carlo Ponti, N.Y. mayor John Lindsay, and many others. His client list is impressive, and Lapidus is clearly dazzled by his own press, unlike his second wife, who when called to tell her he wouldn’t be home for dinner because he was taking out Marla Maples, said, “That’s nice. See you later.”

Lapidus Misses his Target

In his introduction, Lapidus says that his intent in writing was to present “an insider’s account of the life of a working architect for lay readers.” He’s missed his target audience by missing the fact that lay people are not particularly interested in architecture. Architecture buffs are interested in architecture, and they already know the purpose of construction documents and concrete forms, so for them, the explanations of the most basic aspects of the business are tedious. Lapidus may or may not be a great architect, but with this book he has proven that he’s an only passable writer. This reader was left thinking, “That’s nice. See you later.”

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