A Celebration of Paul R. Williams, Architect: From Hollywood Regency to SeaView Palos Verdes On Demand Webinar
In this webinar, author Stephen Gee will give us an introduction to Paul R. Williams’s career and the many styles he mastered. Photographer Janna Ireland will discuss her experiences documenting the architect’s extant Southern California buildings, as compiled in her recent book “Regarding Paul R. Williams: A Photographer’s View.” And Price T. Morgan and Larry Paul will introduce us to their beloved Palos Verdes community of SeaView, a rare and little known Paul R. Williams tract development. We’ll learn about the particular charm and quirks of SeaView’s design, and the challenges of restoring a remodeled SeaView home to meet and even exceed the architect’s original intentions.
Paul R. Williams is an integral part of the story of Southern California’s unique contributions in inventing and reinventing Modern architecture from the 1920s into the 1970s. Far more than the architect of a string of magnificent homes for the rich and famous, he was an active participant in absorbing and interpreting the forces of modern life in the region. As a young man he sought out the best training he could, and employment with some of the leading progressive architects of Los Angeles. Once he launched his own firm, his skill in designing the favored traditional styles of the day brought him a series of civic, commercial, and residential buildings. Sensing the rising modern current in the 1930s, he (and other Los Angeles architects) explored the directions that new technologies, mass production, the auto, and the city’s forward-looking culture began to reveal. Reflecting this evolving trend, he was an important contributor to the Hollywood Regency style, reinterpreting glamorous traditional forms with modernism’s simplification. He also introduced a line of prefabricated steel housing. From there he moved on (with other Los Angeles architects) to even more daring and original modern forms, abandoning traditional elements in the 1940s and 1950s entirely for a well-composed architecture of abstract form we now identify as Late Moderne. He continued to refine these Modern ideas, though rarely if ever borrowing from the International Style template; Los Angeles culture and lifestyle served him well enough as inspirations in evolving this Southern California-based Modernism throughout his career. He practiced this in a wide range of building types, including commercial high-rises, airports, civic buildings, hotels, motels, public housing, race tracks, churches, mass-produced tract housing, and luxury residences. Of course he accomplished this while his drive, character, and ability helped him to face and overcome the constraints of racism in his day. And disproving the prediction of the teacher who advised him not to become an architect because the Black community could not support such a career, he maintained and sought out a steady line of commissions from Black clients for commercial, church, residential, and tract housing architecture.
We are grateful to Alan Hess, architect and historian, for his help with this program.
ABOUT OUR SPECIAL GUESTS
JANNA IRELAND was born in Philadelphia, but has chosen Los Angeles as her home. She holds an MFA from the UCLA Department of Art and a BFA from the Department of Photography and Imaging at NYU. Her work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions across the United States and internationally. Her photographs have appeared in numerous publications, including Aperture, The New Yorker, Harper’s, Frieze, Camera Austria, the Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times Magazine. Her book, Regarding Paul R. Williams: A Photographer’s View, was published in 2020 and shortlisted for the Paris Photo – Aperture Foundation First PhotoBook award.
STEPHEN GEE is a writer and television producer based in Los Angeles. He is the author of four books, including “Master Architects of Southern California 1920-1940: Paul R. Williams” (2021), “Los Angeles City Hall: An American Icon” (2018) and “Iconic Vision: John Parkinson, Architect of Los Angeles” (2013). He is also co-author with Arnold Schwartzman of “Los Angeles Central Library: A History of its Art and Architecture” (2016), which won the 2016 Glenn Goldman Award for Art, Architecture, and Photography, presented by Southern California Independent Booksellers Association. Stephen also wrote, directed, and produced the award-winning PBS documentary “Iconic Vision: John Parkinson, Architect of Los Angeles” (2018). A graduate of City, University of London, he began his career as a newspaper reporter in Norfolk, England. He has lived in Los Angeles since 1995.
PRICE T. MORGAN is a Dallas-based debate coach and staff member at a university-based public health research institute. Born and raised in the Los Angeles area, Price spent his childhood and early teenage years focused on various historical research projects and acting endeavors. He graduated from Los Angeles Harbor College in 2017 and Southern Methodist University in 2019. In his spare time, Price enjoys reading, playing his ukulele, creating new vegan recipes, wrestling with cognitive dissonance, and procrastinating.
LARRY PAUL and his wife Julie have been studying mid-century modern design for more than 25 years and have been working on a sensitive restoration/improvement of Larry’s childhood home, designed by Paul R. Williams. Because the home needed significant repairs and had been modified over the decades, it provided both a challenge and an opportunity to restore and enhance the MCM character while modernizing the functionality and efficiency. Larry has decades of experience in the design and deployment of high-end specialty themed entertainment, giant screens, visualization and simulation projects. His name is on six patents. Larry and Julie are 100% responsible for the design effort. To get to the final design, and knowing the advantages of pre-visualizing on the computer, Larry and Julie explored multiple design concepts by first building them as digital 3D models before hiring professional firms to do the structural engineering and construction work.
This webinar is an illustrated lecture packed with rare photos that will bring the work of Paul R. Williams to life. And you’ll find the look of an Esotouric webinar is a little different than your standard dry Zoom session, with lively interactive graphics courtesy of the mmhmm app.
After the presentation, Kim, Richard, Stephen, Janna, Price and Larry will answer your questions, so get ready to be a part of the show.
Can’t join in when the webinar is happening? You’ll have access to the full replay for one week. Please note: the 90 minute running time is just an estimate, and we often run long because the stories take on a life of their own. You can always come back and watch the last part of the webinar recording later.
So, tune in and discover the incredible history of Los Angeles, with the couple whose passion for the city is infectious.
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About Esotouric: As undergraduates at UC Santa Cruz, Kim Cooper and Richard Schave inexplicably hated one another on sight. (Perhaps less inexplicably, their academic advisor believed they were soul mates). A chance meeting 18 years later proved much more agreeable. Richard wooed Kim with high level library database access, with which she launched the 1947project true crime blog, highlighting a crime a day from the year of The Black Dahlia and Bugsy Siegel slayings. The popular blog’s readers demanded a tour, and then another. The tour was magical, a hothouse inspiring new ways for the by-then-newlyweds to tell the story of Los Angeles. Esotouric was born in 2007 with a calendar packed with true crime, literary, architecture and rock and roll tours. Ever since, it has provided a platform for promoting historic preservation issues (like the Save the 76 Ball campaign and the landmarking of Charles Bukowski’s bungalow), building a community of urban explorers (including dozens of free talks and tours under the umbrella of LAVA) and digging even deeper into the secret heart of the city they love.
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