Paul Revere Williams
--Paul R Williams
|This Los Angeles residence, built in 1952, was designed by the African-American architect Paul R Williams for himself and his family.|
One of the leading African-American architects in America, Paul R Williams (1894 - 1980) was born in Los Angeles, California. He created homes for numerous American television and movie stars after the Second World War and designed several iconic buildings - both public and commercial - primarily located in California. He also worked with Hilyard Robinson to create Langston Terrace Dwellings in Washington, DC - the first federally funded post-war public housing projects.
|Langston Terrace Dwellings in Washington, DC - built between 1935 and 1938 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.|
Both of Williams’ parents died of tuberculosis before Williams reached the age of five. He and his older brother were raised in foster care before eventually being adopted.
As a youngster, he was the only African-American pupil in his school. He began studying architecture before working as a landscape architect and studying architectural engineering. He was warned by teachers to find another career path despite his intelligence, being told, “Your own people can't afford you, and white clients won't hire you." Despite this discouraging career advice, Williams first became certified as a building contractor in 1915 and received his degree in architecture in 1919.
One of his earliest professional roles came in 1920, where he served on the first Los Angeles City Planning Commission. In 1921 he became a certified architect and was hired by one of the top architects in Los Angeles, British-born John C Austin.
Williams established himself as a skilled draftsman and was chief draftsman for the firm, due to his ability to render drawings upside down. He acquired this skill out of necessity, since he was often required to sit across the desk from white clients who may have been reluctant to have him sit next to them.
In 1923, Williams became the first African-American member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). He also opened his own firm in 1923, at the height of the real estate boom in Southern California.
Williams quickly built his reputation for designing affordable housing along with extravagant homes that were said to exhibit elegant proportions. This attracted people with money and taste, including clients such as Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball and other show business icons. Many of his designs included innovative features such as hidden screens as room dividers and patios as additional living space.
Williams once spoke out about the irony of his position as architect to the stars, stating that most of the homes he designed and oversaw the construction of were built on land covered by segregation clauses that would prohibit African Americans from purchasing them.
 Commercial structures
|Williams designed the Polo Lounge, the Crescent Wing and the Pink Palace's signature loopy signage at the Beverly Hills Hotel.|
- 1939 - MCA Building (winner of the AIA Award of Merit)
- 1940s - Beverly Hills Hotel (redesign)
- 1947 - Palm Springs Tennis Club (with A. Quincy Jones)
- 1949 - Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Building
- 1961 - Theme Building.
|Theme Building is located near the Los Angeles International Airport. It was designated by the city as a historic-cultural monument in 1993.|
In 1939, he won the AIA Award of Merit and would later go on to become the first African American elected as a Fellow to the AIA in 1957. He was awarded the AIA's Gold Medal in 2017, 37 years after his death.
|Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Building is located in the West Adams neighbourhood of Los Angeles, California.|
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- A Blueprint for Change report.
- Affordable housing.
- American architecture and construction.
- American Institute of Architects AIA
- BAME Community.
- Diversity, equality and opportunities in the construction industry.
- Frank Lloyd Wright.
- Modernist architecture.
- Pocket door.
- Theme Building, LAX.
Diversity, social value and skills
- Diversity and inclusion
- Skills and careers
- Social value
- Academic research
- A-Z of EDI: Definitions
- Building People 'Network of Networks'
- Building People platform
 Join in
Building People is bringing together the huge amount of resource that exists across the Built Environment industry, with a focus on diversity and inclusion, skills and careers, and social value.
We need your help to do this.
Have you got useful material to share? Do you know of information that would be helpful to others? If it is relevant to the Built Environment and to diversity, skills and social value, then it's relevant to others. Help them find it by using the guidelines below.
 Add your own content
- For guidance about writing and adding your own content see Get started - top tips and help.
- Some articles are more popular and useful than others. This article explains more.
- Make sure you use the right title as this helps search engines find it. See here for guidance.
- Add your signature to link readers to your profile.
- Tick the 'People' box when you submit the article - that way your content will appear in this Building People microsite.
- Finding it tricky? Contact us for assistance.