Wednesday, October 08, 2008

William The Conqueror: 13 Details About Paul R. Williams

"If I allow the fact that I am a Negro to checkmate my will to do, now, I will inevitably form the habit of being defeated."

"Planning is thinking beforehand how something is to be made or done, and mixing imagination with the product – which in a broad sense makes all of us planners. The only difference is that some people get a license to get paid for thinking and the rest of us just contribute our good thoughts to our fellow man."

1) I've done several Thursday Thirteens on architecture, but the buildings of Paul Williams are ones I have spent the most time actually visiting in the Los Angeles area. Many of his buildings are familiar pop culture icons seen in movies or television, but they are so beautiful with simple elegance when seen in person.

2) In the 1960s Williams was an associate architect in the design of new terminal facilities at Los Angeles International Airport, including the futuristic Theme Building with its flying saucer-shaped restaurant. (photo above)

3) Perino's Restaurant a Los Angeles landmark, was remodeled from a Thriftimart grocery store in the 1950's by Paul Williams.
Williams himself once wrote: “When asked what was my theory of design – that I did so many contemporary buildings yet I shunned the exotic approach – my answer was, conservative designs stay in style longer and are a better investment.”

4) Saks Fifth Avenue, Beverly Hills, 1939. “Since they wanted this store to express the warmth of a fine home, they decided to use a residential architect,” Williams wrote in his journal.

5) Now owned by Barron Hilton, this house was designed in the 1930's and owned by broadcasting pioneer William S. Paley.
Paul Revere Williams was an African-American architect at a time when such a combination wasn’t considered possible. He had been told as a teenager that “a Negro” couldn’t be an architect; he proved otherwise, though it meant riding to job sites in segregated train cars and perfecting the skill of upside-down drawing (so he could sit across the table from clients, rather than lean over them, lest his proximity make them uncomfortable).

6) “He was completely undaunted by racism,” says the architect’s granddaughter, Karen Hudson, who has authored two books on his career and life.

7) Against all odds, Williams designed hundreds of important public buildings and palatial playgrounds for the elite, in the process becoming one of Southern California’s signature 20th-century architects.

8) Best known as the “architect to the stars.” His portfolio of celebrity clients included Sinatra, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Tyrone Power, Lon Chaney, Bert Lahr and Zsa Zsa Gabor. To this day, Hollywood royalty live in Williams-designed homes in Beverly Hills, Bel Air, San Marino and other communities

9) The Shriner Auditorium once hosted the Emmy Awards and the Oscars.

10) Aaron Lilien Residence, holmby hills, 1946 Slender columns and simplified balconies characterize this modern colonial from Williams’ postwar period.

11) Paul Williams contributed to the building of The Beverly Hills Hotel, which was designed originally by Elmer Grey. From 1947 to 1951, Williams worked on the extensive restoration of the Beverly Hills Hotel, an erstwhile hotspot for the glitterati that had faded from glory under a succession of owners. Williams contributed the designs for a revamped Polo Lounge, the Fountain Coffee Shop, and – as legend has it – the hotel’s signage itself, the smart script familiar to anyone who has ever cruised down Sunset Boulevard. The coffee shop, especially, showcased Williams’ classic Southern California sensibility, gracefully commingling inside and outside with bright colors (green booths, pink tablecloths, matching pink vases) and floor-to-ceiling windows.

12) Lon Chaney house designed by Williams.

13) Were he alive today Williams would be disappointed, (granddaughter) Hudson says, that still very few African-Americans are working as architects. Blacks make up about 5 percent of AIA membership, scarcely more than in Williams’ own time. On the bright side, she says, her famous grandfather saw incredible social change in his lifetime.

“He saw people of his own color moving up, working, progressing, some going to architecture school, and as he saw his own people coming along that made him happy.”


Overview and photos, this is a fantiastic page of Paul Williams bio.
Via Magazine profile. This short profile really delves into the social challenges Williams overcame.
Wiki page
Paul R. Williams: A Legacy of Style by Karen Hudson


Carmen said...

I studied architecture for a while in college, so great 13!

Hootin Anni said...

Super 13!!

Come on over to my place and read about the Headless Horseman and Icabod Crane from the legendary short's loaded with pictures and some historical facts today. See you there!!

Happy Thursday 13.

Janet said...

I love #s 4 & 5 and Lon Chaney's cool!

Anonymous said...

These posts are so fun. AND I realize how little I know about architecture - and buildings. amazing. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

tweetey30 said...

Beautiful stuff. I have never really looked at it this way. Just amazing when you think of it and get the history behind it.

Julia Phillips Smith said...

Really breathtaking. Especially that sun mosaic pool. Wow.

I loved learning all about the man behind those designs, especially his groundbreaking social role.

I'm going to be blogging over at missmakeamovie tomorrow - come check out my look at the arts and Stephen Harper's campaign. It will be posted by noon.

Gardenia said...

Delicate and graceful design. Love that graceful overhead in Saks.....doesn't it seem so incredibly odd that a person's skin tone could affect thier work - well, it doesn't - only the acceptance of their work - wonder what the defining factor of "making it" was...determination? The right "breaks?"

pjazzypar said...

Absolutely spectacular Candy! These some beautiful architectural marvels that speak to how far you can go despite the nay sayers. Thanks for sharing this. Incredible!

Malcolm said...

I had never heard of Paul Revere Williams until now. Thanks for the info. Looking at some of his work does make me realize that I have seen some of it in various movies and TV shows.

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