09/09/20 Community Reacts to USC Architecture & Getty Research Institute’s Joint Acquisition of Paul Revere Williams’ Archive


The June 30 announcement of the Paul Revere Williams archive acquisition by USC Architecture & Getty Research Institute was celebrated by professionals in the design industry and greater USC community. The renowned architect’s work and legacy mean so much to so many. Here, community members share their reactions to the news of the acquisition. 

“The Getty is thrilled and honored to partner with Dean Curry and the USC School of Architecture in acquiring the archive of the renowned architect, Paul Revere Williams. His rich and distinguished work has enhanced our city. Acquiring this archive means it will forever be available for consultation and exhibition, perpetuating Mr. Williams’ legacy as one of the greatest architects of our time.” — James Cuno, J. Paul Getty Trust President & CEO

“Paul Revere Williams was a trailblazer in every sense of the word. As an African American architect in a largely segregated society, he worked diligently to overcome racial barriers and establish a reputation for design excellence that would characterize a career that spanned six decades. Nearly 100 years after he earned his architectural license, his legacy shines as brightly as ever and he continues to serve as an inspiration for architects and real estate developers, particularly those of color, who remain underrepresented in their fields.” — Victor MacFarlane, MacFarlane Partners Chairman & CEO

“I am thrilled that the Paul R. Williams archive will now reside with the USC School of Architecture. Williams’ legacy as one of L.A.’s most beloved architects is an enduring testament to his tremendous talent and will. He didn’t just design houses, he truly created homes that are uniquely grounded in the city's history and tradition for generations of families, including my own. Under Dean Milton Curry's careful stewardship, this invaluable source of architectural, social and cultural history will be forever preserved for scholars and practitioners.” — Willow Bay, USC Annenberg Dean 

“I have loved design and architecture my entire life, and since I can remember I have had a deep and profound admiration for Paul R. Williams’ extraordinary life’s work. He was a trailblazer of his time and is undoubtedly one of the most prolific architectural designers of the 20th century. Williams defied the odds and faced adversity at a time when racial prejudice was pervasive. His legacy is testament to his unwavering dedication to his art, perseverance and his life is a triumph of the human spirit.” — Rick Caruso, Caruso Founder & CEO

“This acquisition offers unparalleled opportunity for new insights on one of the 20th century’s most significant architects. It comes at a time of critical reassessment of the preservation and accessibility of Black historical materials. We should be grateful to the dedicated stewardship of Williams’ family and even more so that this archive can now be shared with scholars and a wider public, expanding our capacity to understand Southern California’s past and imagine its future.” — Cameron Shaw, California African American Museum Deputy Director and Chief Curator

“Angelenos are very familiar with many of his landmark buildings that dot the Los Angeles and Southern California landscape, but few of us know the man behind their vision. Paul. R. Williams, FAIA surmounted many obstacles to become an extraordinarily prolific and successful architect both here and abroad. Now, thanks to USC and Getty, his fascinating story and work will be accessible for generations to come, as will his legacy as a pioneering architect and beloved family man.” — Grant C. Kirkpatrick, AIA ‘86, KAA DESIGN Founding Partner/USC Architecture Board of Councilors Co-Chair

“The joint acquisition of the Paul Revere Williams archive by USC and the Getty Research Institute and future programming around it is a profoundly important moment for architectural history and Southern California cultural history. Few figures can compare with Paul Williams in terms of his prolific contributions to the growth of Los Angeles across a broad spectrum of building types from premier residential projects to ground breaking public housing, from iconic commercial to renown institutional projects. His exceptional gifts as a designer and effectiveness as a collaborator will come to life as scholars and students engage with his legacy. Paul Williams created a nationally important practice in a profession that to this day is dramatically underrepresented by African Americans. His legacy, which he built in the face of segregation, serves as a standard for inclusion and civic benefit. On a personal note, Williams’ 1961 LAX Theme Building inspired me, at 12 years old in Cleveland, about the creative potential for architecture.” — Frederick Fisher, AIA, FAAR, Frederick Fisher and Partners Founding Partner/USC Architecture Board of Councilors

“This action by USC Architecture elevates the engagement with our City. The archive is a priceless resource for the study of history and architecture. The fact that Williams is the first African American member of the AIA, Fellow of the AIA, and Gold Medalist only magnifies its significance.” — Peyton Hall, FAIA, USC Architecture Adjunct Professor

This acquisition is very exciting. Paul R. Williams built so much, yet his contribution to the history of Los Angeles and California modernism has received far less critical focus despite his prolific output. He built in the region of 1,000 houses—that's far more than most architects achieve in a lifetime and there are many more to be included in his oeuvre if we consider the projects that he financed throughout the city. If you have driven around LA, you have probably driven past a Paul R. Williams project without knowing it! Williams is a story of a California modernism that was ubiquitous and attainable for all—he knew all too well how race and the maintenance of racial difference worked to define the color line and devised methods to subvert the status quo through architectural means. Access to his archives will be crucial for the history of architecture where his investigation of materials, integration of finance, and technical work influenced the direction that California modernism would take in the postwar era. Williams’ treatment of architecture extends far beyond the building itself, and his papers will be instrumental for us to build a bigger picture of his story.” — Rebecca Choi, Architectural Historian

“The life and life’s work of Paul Revere Williams are phenomenally important chapters in the history of Southern California. An architect of vision and courage, Williams challenged convention and discrimination, and many of the buildings he designed have become monuments. In this era of our collective reckoning with memories and memorials, it is especially apt to celebrate the preservation of this archive and the creativity that shimmers from within it.” — William Deverell, USC Dornsife Department of History and Spatial Sciences Institute/Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West Director/USC Libraries Collections Convergence Institute Director

“Williams has been widely recognized for his architectural talent as well as the extreme elegance of his work, yet the full scope of his achievement has been difficult to assess. Up until very recently, it was widely believed that the bulk of his office records and drawings had been destroyed in the Los Angeles fires of 1992. Thanks in no small part to the efforts of Milton Curry, dean of the USC School of Architecture, what was thought to have been irretrievably lost has recently come to light. This trove of material includes some 35,000 plans and 10,000 drawings, as well as blueprints, vintage photographs and correspondence. Through a joint agreement between the School of Architecture and the Getty Research Institute, these have now been added to the institute’s collections where they will be archived and conserved and will eventually be made accessible to scholars and the public.” — Kenneth Breisch, USC Architecture Heritage Conservation Faculty

“Having had the honor of selling many of the estates designed by Paul R. Williams, it is abundantly clear why his work has remained iconic of Los Angeles architecture. He was a true visionary with an unrivaled sense of beauty and elegance, who expanded both aesthetic and cultural boundaries.” — Jeff Hyland, Hilton & Hyland President & Co-Founder/USC Architecture Board of Councilors

“The Ford Foundation is proud to support the USC School of Architecture and Getty Research Institute's acquisition of the archives of one of the greatest American architects of the 20th century: Paul R. Williams. He was a man of extraordinary talent, intellect and courage who prevailed over the racism and bigotry he encountered by demonstrating excellence, creativity, determination and grit. His imprint on the landscape of Los Angeles and the state of California is profound.” — Darren Walker, Ford Foundation President

“If we, as architects, are truly committed to providing a pathway for underrepresented communities into our profession, there must be access to the history of the individual who paved the way. A quick Google search for books on Paul Revere Williams will net a number of publications, most of which are difficult to find in any quantity, or whose price is out of reach to those whose hands we need to get them into. This archive will help to change that.” — D. Michael Hamner, FAIA ’84, BArch Builder Architects Principal; Krystal (Kau) Hamner, AIA ‘92, BArch Builder Architects Principal/USC Architectural Guild Board

Generous leadership support is provided by Jeff and Lori Hyland with additional major funding provided by The Ford Foundation, Krystal and D. Michael Hamner, and Frank Muscara.

 Related Links: Architect Paul Revere Williams’ Archive Jointly Acquired by USC School of Architecture and Getty Research Institute


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