Head into the last big weekend of the summer with a look South Beach's Lincoln Road Mall on today's claass HAUS.
I have a bit of a fascination with architect Morris Lapidus (you’ve noticed), and while the MiMo legend is probably best known for his postwar hotels (the Fontainebleau, the Eden Roc), he was also an innovative shop designer, bringing a modernist eye (and an ostentatious sparkle) to the American storefront. In one of his most important commissions, the open-air Lincoln Road Mall, Lapidus managed to combine the drama of his glamorous hotel lobbies with the innovation of his modern retail spaces to create a truly unique shopping experience and an iconic Miami landmark. Today the mall remains the city's essential hub, a true testament to Lapidus' remarkably timeless vision.
From the beginning of the twentieth century, Lincoln Road has served as Miami Beach's social and cultural center. Running east and west, the wide thoroughfare (designed by developer Carl Fisher) originally functioned as an elegant commercial avenue, attracting well-heeled locals to its generous sidewalks and upscale amenities. During the 1950s, the City of Miami Beach approached Lapidus (by then a star on the local scene) to redesign Lincoln Road as a pedestrian walkway, effectively closing the street to vehicle traffic for several blocks. Funded by $600,000 in municipal bonds and inspired by national trends in downtown revitalization, the revamped Lincoln Road opened to the public as a car-free zone in 1960.
Armed with a modernist vocabulary and his usual theatrical flair, Lapidus created a tropical shopping paradise that was pure Miami. Pavement painted with black and white piano-like stripes guides shoppers through the outdoor mall, while bold concrete shelters with folded planes and swooping canopies offer relief from the hot sun. Lively fountains, geometric pools, and planters overflowing with lush foliage add visual interest to the paved promenade as groups of trees and thoughtful plantings tie the linear spaces into a cohesive design. Mixing a whimsical, space-age aesthetic with high-end stores, a tropical setting, and easy walkability, Lapidus constructed an accessible, playful, and dynamic centerpiece for Miami's thriving beachside landscape.
After a period of deterioration in the 1970s and 1980s, Lincoln Road Mall underwent revitalization during the South Beach boom of the following decades. In 1997, landscape architect Martha Schwartz replaced the native palm trees that lined both sides of the street, renovated the fountains, and added new paving faithful to Lapidus' original vision. More than a decade later, Raymond Jungles designed additional blocks for the mall's west end, employing biomorphic shapes, native plantings, and water features to create an "urban glade." Recently the City of Miami Beach hired James Corner Field Operations to develop a master plan for further restoration and improvement of the midcentury icon.
One of the earliest pedestrian malls in the United States (and probably the most successful), Lincoln Road has been a magnet for the chic and affluent for the better part of sixty years. As popular as ever (especially with tourists), the mall is just another example of Morris Lapidus' energetic, eye-catching, and enduring aesthetic. Today the walkable shopping district remains an active social center and an integral part of Miami's cultural and architectural identity.
I designed Lincoln Road for people- a car never bought anything. -Morris Lapidus
claass HAUS will be back next week, but until then- Happy Labor Day!
Image at top:
Historic American Buildings Survey. Lincoln Road Mall, Miami, Miami-Dade County, FL. Documentation Compiled After 1933. Photograph. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, fl0282.
This architectural historian cannot stop thinking about buildings, food, and that vintage rug she found online.