text John T. O’Connor
renderings Adache Group Architects
The Fort Lauderdale Beach of the late 1960s and 70s was an intricate puzzle of sorts. While establishments like The Button, Marlin Beach, The Candy Store, Elbo Room ruled the rest of the beach, on its south end The Yankee Clipper and Bahia Cabana held court. The Button would run through 100 kegs of beer a day at its zenith, while mermaids entertained packed crowds at the Yankee Clipper’s Wreck Bar. While each club and hotel were entirely different, together they made up a whole that catered to several million different college kids during
their reign. For years sandwiched between a fire station and a Mid-Century Modern co-op residence, the Bahia Cabana was indeed one of the hotspots of Fort Lauderdale’s decades as a sort of Beach Blanket Babylon. Its three structures were simple and forgettable, but that did not matter to patrons, who were there for the camaraderie, the rum drinks and the location.
Then as now, location is key. On one side, the Bahia Cabana faced the New River and Bahia Mar Marina. On the other, it faced one of the deepest stretches of Fort Lauderdale’s coconut palm lined beach. So, decades after the Spring Break crowds have departed and a hurricane damaged the hotel extensively, it was, most decidedly, time for a change… And what a change it is.
Designed by Adache Group Architects, the new mixed-use buildings proposed for Bahia Cabana’s two adjacent parcels is perhaps best described as a nautically-inspired Modernism… one that takes the design of the yachts in the harbor behind it for inspiration. Its corners, like those on a yacht, appear curved or windswept. The building is designed with hints of an exoskeleton, a design feature brought to the forefront recently by Zaha Hadid at Miami’s 1000 Museum Tower.
Here, the stretches of contrasting white exoskeleton underscore that connection to yacht design. The resulting form expresses a calm, refined stance that reflects the barrier islands move away from wet t-shirt contests to a stretch where the Conrad rubs shoulders with the Ritz-Carlton and a rapidly rising Four Seasons. Designed as both hotel and residential building, the new Bahia Cabana’s undulating, biomorphic shapes will house everything from ground level café to rooftop amenities deck with drop-dead ocean views. A fitness center and spa will overlook the resort’s pool and cabanas, open to guests from the hotel’s 124 guestrooms as well as the six, residential, penthouse suites. Floor-to-ceiling glass and continuous balconies will offer a visual connection to the wide expanse of Fort Lauderdale’s South Beach… a view the old hotel was never quite able to capitalize on.