October 17, 2007 archive

Everything by Design: My Life as an Architect – Book Review

Architecture is a visceral, not an intellectual art. -From Everything by Design, page 292-

Alan Lapidus followed in his father’s footsteps and became a well known architect, designing such buildings as the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City and the Crowne Plaza hotel in Times Square. In this book, he takes the reader on his journey from working as his famous father’s assistant, to meeting all the rich and famous (including Donald Trump) as he climbs the ladder to become one of the better known architects of our time. The memoir is filled with Lapidus’ first hand experiences including the colorful characters he meets along the way.

Lapidus displays a sarcastic, and sometimes cruel sense of humor which put me off. The section on his early upbringing and his disdainful description of his mother seemed unnecessarily hateful.  Especially when he describes the death of his mother and how he and his brother made a joke related to the loss of a childhood pet. Lapidus writes: When I picked up the phone, Dick said, “Alan, Mom’s gone to a farm in Connecticut.” Jerry came into the room to find me literally rolling on the floor, laughing so hard my sides were hurting. (page 31) The thought that one’s mother’s death would be this gleeful (regardless of her skill at being a mother) struck me as cold. No one in the book seems immune to Lapidus’ judgment and ridicule, including his aunt who helped raise him (Aunt Rose was either marginally impaired or simply bone stupid; I have never been able to figure out which. – page 29-).

Lapidus’ portrayal of women in the book is also off-putting and smacks of juvenile humor. As a woman, I found myself growing weary with his attitude toward the female sex.

For readers who enjoy the drama and prestige of rubbing elbows with the rich and famous of our society, Lapidus’ book will give them an interesting ride. He reveals the politics and economics of big business, and the momentus task of designing and building the elegant and unusual structures that pop up around our country. Had Lapidus focused more on this aspect of his memoir and spent less time running down those around him that not only helped bolster his career, but provided support to him as he was learning, I might have liked this book better than I did.

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