Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The fabulous Kenann Building

In Fort Lauderdale, once you turn your back to the sea, almost every public space you look at is annoying. There are some bright moments, and the Kenann Building at the intersection of Federal Highway and Oakland Park Boulevard is one of them.

Handily, another blogger has done the key research for me:

Designed in 1962 for Ken and Ann Burnstine, by Architect F. Louis Wolff who Wikipedia currently references with the architectural firm Wolff DeCamillo Associates Architects Planners, Inc, the KenAnn Building was remodeled by Architect Dan Duckham in 1992.

With its glitzy glass, glowing lights, soaring exterior mosaics and swervy concrete, this building is a delightful mess. The interior is even worse/better. It seems as if each renovation left just enough of the previous iteration to contradict and argue with the new styling. The basic futurama curves are intact, with, at the entrance, some very vintage Miami Beach/Eden Roc green up-lighting behind tropical foliage around a water feature nesting in the bend of a curved staircase faced with rough-cut travertine. There is smothering beige carpeting that surely hides terrazzo. The second floor lounge is scream-inducingly wonderful. The domed ceiling is fail-faux painted. The winding multilevel bars are Home Depot granite and brass. Two immense traditional crystal chandeliers take on garish colors from the frightening disco –light show while Lawrence Welkish organ music drowns it all in a suicidal bubbling.

You really couldn’t ask for more, and yet, that same blogger links us the a New Times article that tells us:

F. Wolff designed this piece of fabulosity in 1964 for Ken Burnstine, a local drug smuggler and pilot. Burnstine disappeared 12 years later during an air show in the Mojave Desert. A single thumb was recovered from the wreckage, prompting some to speculate that he faked his death (Burnstine was scheduled to testify for the prosecution in a number of drug cases). The Kenann building's billowy white circles were inspired by — no joke — The Jetsons.


Joe said...

There used to be a fancy gay bar on the top floor. I can't recall its name, but I remember it because the one time we tried to go they wouldn't let us in because we were wearing shorts. I specifically recall the door queen sniffing at us when we came out of the elevator. "Hmmph."

The Bum said...

I'm glad Joe confirmed that this is the same building that had a "fancy gay bar" on the top floor. I believe it was called "The Rooftop" and it had a great Friday afternoon happy hour in 1983.

Anonymous said...

it does look like a cosmic water temple. fun to look at, nice review. oh, and the "green" chandelier is what the young people say...perfect.

chubby hubby

Joe said...

The Bum is right, it was The Rooftop. Silly that I couldn't remember that, what with it being on the rooftop.

Robin said...

Cousin Lou, I'm proud of your architectural skills! I'll never forget the first time I saw that building and raved non stop all day how awesome it was. I was so shocked when we were all driving passed it and you asked, "what do you think of that building?" and of course I was clueless you designed it! It was too funny, but certainly a memorable moment!