April is National Architecture Month.
As we continue to explore the role of race in the built environment and identify the barriers for BIPOC architects in the profession, it’s apparent that we have to study the legacy of colored architects to strategize the equitable path forward for the community. When Southern California National Organization for Minority Architects partnered with Los Angeles Conservancy for the virtual as well as self-guided driving tour explore the path legendary black architect Paul Revere Williams carved across Los Angeles, I had to jump on the trail to know more about the “Architect of the Stars”.
Originally, I had planned to continue my pandemic project of writing a personal take on each of the “Two Hundred and Fifty things an architect should know” by Michael Sorkin. It’s a comprehensive list that covers all things architecture, but gender and race didn’t seem to have found the same level of preference that I have on Sorkin’s list. An emerging architect should definitely know all the two hundred and fifty things on Sorkin’s list, but I would love for them to know more about the hundred women in Frank Lloyd Wright’s office, the legacy of Ray Eames that wasn’t shared with Charles Eames, Anne Tyng’s work beyond her relationship with Louis Kahn, career graph of Eileen Gray, the racial prejudice and advancement barriers Paul Revere Williams and Norma Sklarek faced…
Moreover, the people of my list will face erasure by popular culture if timely focus and attention is not shed on their legacy and contributions to the built environment – these are the people written out of Wikipedia, left out by popular critics and wiped out by local building departments without a place in historic conservation. If we don’t tell their stories, if we don’t amplify their works, nobody else will celebrate their legacies!
“I came to realize that I was being condemned, not by lack of ability, but by my color. I passed through successive stages of bewilderment, inarticulate protest, resentment, and, finally, reconciliation to the status of my race. Eventually, however, as I grew older and thought more clearly, I found in my condition an incentive to personal accomplishment, and inspiring challenge. Without having the wish to “show them,” I developed a fierce desire to “show myself.” I wanted to vindicate every ability I had. I wanted to acquire new abilities. I wanted to prove that I, as an individual, deserved a place in the world”
– Paul Revere Williams
Instagram pictures here
From LA Conservancy:
The Kelly Music Building was designed by master architect Paul Revere Williams. While Williams is best known for his residential commissions in upscale Southern California neighborhoods such as Beverly Hills, Holmby Hills, and Bel Air, the Kelly Music commission represents one of his earliest forays into commercial design and is the only example of his work in Westwood Village.
It is an excellent example of the Mediterranean Revival style and reflects the architectural standards developed by the Janss Investment Corporation to define the character of Westwood Village. The period of significance for the building under this criterion is 1930, the year the building was completed and opened to the public.
Know more about the building here.
Second stop, The Beverly Hills hotel:
Nestled among the iconic palm trees, the “Pink Palace” has been home to Hollywood celebrities. Owner Margaret Anderson built the hotel on 1912, but the Paul Williams added the Crescent Wing and reimagined the original spaces to suit the Hollywood elite in 1949. The bespoke font logo was part of the branding package designed by Paul Revere Williams, showcasing his distinctive creative style beyond building design. Standing tall for more than hundred years now, it’s the first historic landmark in the history of the City of Beverly Hills.
Know more about the building here.
Third stop, Botany Building UCLA:
This building is currently under renovation.
Originally completed in 1959 for UCLA’s Westwood campus, Paul Revere Williams was the executive architect for the glass facade building adjacent to the university’s botanical garden. Paul Williams maximized the views of the exisiting botanical garden with the glass facade than change the landscape. The design philosophy was similar to that of residential, to extend the building into site with view decks.
These three buildings are part of the first week on the Paul Revere trail. The goal is to explore all of his buildings in Los Angeles eventually!