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“For most of his life, Paul Williams lived in two worlds: one as an architect and one as an African American man in his community.”

When African American architect Paul Revere Williams was born in Los Angeles in 1894, the city—like its Black population—was small but growing rapidly. This expansion provided many opportunities for architects to design homes, offices, stores, and even communities. Williams thrived in this landscape, working on everything from elaborate homes for Hollywood stars like Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, to churches for African American congregations such as the First A.M.E. and Second Baptist churches, to integrated public housing projects. Yet despite his success and growing fame, Williams also faced racism and segregation, which at times made him unwelcome in the very spaces he was designing.

The archive of this prolific architect, comprising tens of thousands of sketches, blueprints, and project notes, was jointly acquired by the Getty Research Institute and the University of Southern California School of Architecture in June 2020. In this episode, Karen Elyse Hudson, author and granddaughter of the architect, and LeRonn Brooks, associate curator for modern and contemporary collections at the GRI, discuss Williams’s trailblazing work and his impact on both the field of architecture and the city of L.A.

Portrait of Paul R. Williams standing in front of a full bookshelf with an open book in his hands.

Portrait of Paul R. Williams, 1952, Julius Shulman. © J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, 2004.R.10

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Regarding Paul R. Williams: A Photographer’s View

JAMES CUNO: Hello, I’m Jim Cuno, President of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Welcome to Art and Ideas, a podcast in which I speak to artists, conservators, authors, and scholars about their work.
KAREN HUDSON: For most of his life, Paul Williams lived in two worlds, one as an architect and one...

Music Credits
“The Dharma at Big Sur – Sri Moonshine and A New Day.” Music written by John Adams and licensed with permission from Hendon Music. (P) 2006 Nonesuch Records, Inc., Produced Under License From Nonesuch Records, Inc. ISRC: USNO10600825 & USNO10600824

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This post is part of Art + Ideas, a podcast in which Getty president Jim Cuno talks with artists, writers, curators, and scholars about their work.
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