Main News Paul Williams: Breaking the Barriers of Prejudice

Paul Williams: Breaking the Barriers of Prejudice

>Paul Williams: Breaking the Barriers of Prejudice

The Gold Medal is the AIA’s highest annual honor, recognizing individuals whose work has had a lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture.  

With a client list that reads like a who’s who of Hollywood history, Paul Revere Williams developed an incredible portfolio of nearly 3,000 beautiful buildings during his five-decade career that was marked with a number of broken barriers. An architect whose work carried the glamour of classic Southern California style to the rest of the world, Williams was the among the first black students admitted to the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design, the first black architect to become a member of the AIA, and, later, the first black member to be inducted into the Institute’s College of Fellows.  

Williams opened his practice in the early 1920s when Southern California’s real estate market was booming. His early practice focused both on small, affordable houses for new homeowners and revival-style homes for his more affluent clients. As his reputation swelled, so, too, did his client list. Williams’ practice expanded and among the 2,000 homes he designed includes graceful private residences for legendary figures in business and entertainment such as Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Lon Chaney, Frank Sinatra, and Barron Hilton.  

While Williams was more than comfortable with the historical styles endemic to Southern California, his fluency in modernism is reflected in the work outside of his residential practice. Among his number of schools, public buildings, and churches are American architectural landmarks, including the Palm Springs Tennis Center (1946) designed with A. Quincy Jones; the space age LAX Theme Building (1961) designed with William Pereira, Charles Luckman, and Welton Becket; and his 1949 renovation of the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel. Eight of Williams’ works have been named to the National Register of Historic Places.