Distinguished at Every Curve - Page 6

AIA's first African-American, pioneer Paul R. Williams was the 'architect to the stars' who mastered mid-century modern
Paul Williams article
Paul Williams article
Paul Williams article
Three modern-looking Seaview models above (from top to bottom): the Copacabana, the Bermuda, and the Marina.

The views are so awesome, in fact, they can eclipse the architecture—which is striking in itself. There are flat roofs (‘The Bermuda' and ‘Monte Carlo' plans) and low gables (‘The Marina'), some single-sloped roofs (‘The Copacabana'), even a handful of butterfly roofs. Some models have ‘high hats,' higher central sections that allow for clerestory windows over the living area.

Many of the homes have splayed plans, which can be found in Williams' custom homes and commercial projects as well.

Williams, in his evenhanded way, provided both for modernists and traditionalists, with some homes resembling traditional ranches. But for true lovers of exotica, there are homes that suggest Tiki, complete with outrigger beams.

Although not as glass-filled as Eichlers, the homes here open to backyards through glass sliders. Some are faced with Palos Verde stone. Most exterior siding is stucco or wood panel. The original garage doors that remain feature abstract, geometric designs. Interiors include a few boomerang-patterned countertops, and brick or stone fireplaces that are often angled.

Despite a few second-story additions, Morgan estimates that most of the homes remain original.

Although Morgan's request in 2009 that the Rancho Palos Verdes City Council approve historic designation was turned down, he says he isn't giving up. He has plans in the works to apply for California Register historic-district designation.

• In SeaView Palos Verdes, homes designed by Paul Williams can be found along South Palos Verdes Drive and several uphill streets, including Schooner, Conqueror, Exultant, Stalwart, and Dauntless Drives, and several courts.


Quick Tour of Williams Modern

• In Los Angeles: Williams was a collaborator on the Theme Building at LAX in association with Pereira & Luckman and Welton Becket. The Music Corporation of America Building, Colonial in look, modern in concept, is at 360 N. Crescent Drive, Beverly Hills. Williams designed the pair of office buildings and the nearby garage. The Beverly Hills Hotel, 9641 Sunset Boulevard, was designed in 1912 by Elmer Grey; Williams added his characteristic curves inside and a new wing starting in 1949.

• In Palm Springs: The 1946 Palm Springs Tennis Club restaurant, 701 West Baristo Road, by Williams and A. Quincy Jones retains its beauty. The same team's Town & Country Center, 174 North Palm Canyon Drive, from 1947, however, has been allowed to deteriorate.

• In Las Vegas: The La Concha Motel lobby can be admired on Las Vegas Boulevard (near Cashman Center), where it is the visitor center for the Neon Museum.


• Karen E. Hudson has written three books about her grandfather, all published by Rizzoli: The Will and the Way: Paul R. Williams, Architect, Paul R. Williams Architect: A Legacy of Style, and the newly published Paul R. Williams: Classic Hollywood Style.
• Williams' books of house plans, The Small Home of Tomorrow and New Homes for Today, have been reprinted by Hennessey & Ingalls.
• Wesley Howard Henderson's Ph.D. thesis, Two Case Studies of African-American Architects' Careers in Los Angeles 1890-1945, is available through the library system of the University of California.
• The short film, Paul Revere Williams: A Legend in Architecture, can be viewed on YouTube. 

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