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Architect Paul R. Williams refurbished and expanded The Beverly Hills Hotel throughout the 1940s, adding many of the distinctive flourishes for which it’s known today.
Byron W.Moore / shutterstock.com

Mapped: 20 places in LA where black architects left their mark

”African American architects are here, and they’re doing good work in LA”

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Architect Paul R. Williams refurbished and expanded The Beverly Hills Hotel throughout the 1940s, adding many of the distinctive flourishes for which it’s known today.
| Byron W.Moore / shutterstock.com

When architect Jason E. Morris set out to create a map of Los Angeles to highlight buildings designed by black architects, the body of work he found was smaller than he had hoped. Not only did African American architects lack professional opportunities—they often weren’t credited for their contributions.

So Morris scoured databases and records and contacted architects’ relatives and architecture firms, ultimately pinpointing 53 structures of social, cultural, and historic importance that were built because of the contributions and leadership of black architects.

“African American architects are here, and they’re doing good work here, in LA,” he said.

Those 53 points became a map, which was produced by AIA|LA, the Southern California chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects, and Gruen Associates (where Morris worked at the time) and released in November 2016. The map is intended to inspire the next generation of diverse designers.

“In doing my research, many architects of the previous generation were motivated by seeing Paul Williams and the high-profile clients he attracted,” Morris said. “We may not see another Paul Williams in our lifetime, but with the map, there’s an aggregate of all these accomplished architects joining Williams that students may see as examples today and always.”

In that spirit, this map identifies a mix of AIA-selected architectural works and notable homes and churches by black architects. Dive into the full map on the AIA|LA website.

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Douglas F. Dollarhide Community Center

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Michael H. Anderson, RA (BASE Architecture)

This two-story structure in Compton, designed by BASE Architecture, serves the community with programs focused on senior citizens, activity spaces, a gym, and a media room. The center is named after Compton’s first black mayor, who was elected in 1969.

Photo by Nico Marques. Courtesy of BASE Architecture.

Fountainview at Gonda

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Barbara H. Bouza, FAIA, (Gensler)

The Fountainview at Gonda Westside is a housing complex for seniors run by the Los Angeles Jewish Home. The Playa Vista project was designed by a team at Gensler under managing director Barbara Bouza.

Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center

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Gabrielle Bullock, FAIA, (Perkins + Will)

Pei Partnership served as the design architect for the structure, with Perkins + Will serving as the executive architect for the prominent hospital.

Los Angeles Exteriors And Landmarks - 2016 Photo by FG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science

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Drake Dillard, AIA (Kennard Design Group)

The university opened after the 1965 Watts uprising to bring the community “a graduate medical school to educate the minority populations of Los Angeles.”

Physician’s Dormitory at Martin Luther King Jr. General Community Hospital

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Charles E. Fleming, AIA & Carey K. Jenkins, FAIA (Jenkins Fleming Architects)

The firm of Fleming, Jenkins Architects was part of a three-architect team that worked on the hospital, but Fleming, Jenkins alone was responsible for the design of the dormitory for physicians. The hospital, Watts’s first, was a major milestone. According to an article in the December 1974 issue of Ebony magazine, a commission headed by a former head of the CIA concluded that one of the main causes of the Watts uprising was “the absence of even one adequate and accessible medical facility within the community of some 400,000.” The hospital opened in 1972.

Via Google Maps

Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Building

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James H. Garrott, AIA

Not to be confused with the other Golden State Mutual Life Insurance building on West Adams Boulevard, this Spanish Colonial Revival structure is considered the insurance company’s first permanent home. It was commissioned specifically for the company, once the largest black-owned business west of the Mississippi, and built in 1928. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is also a city Historic-Cultural Monument.

According to the application for national historic status, the architect, Garrott, “was one of the two most notable African American architects in Los Angeles; the other was Paul Williams.” Garrott was the second black member of the AIA (after Williams). Garrott also collaborated with Gregory Ain on a Silver Lake office building which the two men shared.

A 2008 photo of the building. Los Angeles/Wikimedia Commons

Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Co.

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Paul R. Williams, AIA

This five-story office complex, designed in the Late Moderne style by famed architect Paul R. Williams, opened as the company’s new headquarters in 1949. The lobby still contains two original murals—“Exploration and Colonization” by Charles Alston​ and ​Hale Woodruff’s “Settlement and Development.” Together the pieces were named “The Negro in California History.”

The black-owned business folded in 2009, but the building remains a stunning marker of achievement.

A yellow, 1940s-era mid-rise building at an intersection. Kwasi Boyd-Bouldin

California African American Museum

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Jack W. Haywood, AIA and Vincent J. Proby, AIA

Beginning in 1981, the California African American Museum operated out of a section of what’s now the California Science Center. In 1984, while the Olympics were underway in LA, the museum’s permanent home opened. Willowbrook residents may be familiar with another work by Proby—he designed the County of Los Angeles Public Library’s A C Bilbrew branch and the mosaic-like glass artwork inside the building. The library was completed in 1974.

Los Angeles Cityscapes and City Views Getty Images

Jesse A. Brewer, 77th Street Regional Police Headquarters

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Robert Kennard, FAIA, (Kennard Design Group)

Inspired by the success of Paul R. Williams, who designed mansions for celebrities and the LA elite, Robert Kennard began his career creating residential designs. He later shifted to work on public buildings, the New York Times wrote in Kennard’s 1995 obituary. According to SoCal NOMA, this police station was one of his last works.

Jules Stein Eye Institute UCLA

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James E. Silcott, AIA

Silcott was the first African American project architect for both Los Angeles County and the University of California. In addition to this UCLA eye clinic, Silcott designed the UCLA Boathouse at Marina del Rey and the Inglewood Courts Building.

The Pacific Design Center (Blue Building)

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Norma M. Sklarek, FAIA (Gruen Associates)

Norma Sklarek, the first black woman to become a licensed architect in the U.S., was the director at Gruen Associates at the time when Cesar Pelli, then a partner at Gruen, designed the Pacific Design Center’s blue building, nicknamed the Blue Whale. Sklarek’s duties at Gruen included “coordinating the technical aspects of major projects” including the Blue Whale, according to the Los Angeles Times’s obituary for Sklarek. In its obituary for Sklarek, Inc. magazine explained that she was responsible for the actual building and construction of the Blue Whale.

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Union Station Gateway East Portal Building

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Roland A. Wiley, AIA (RAW International)

RAW International and Ehrenkrantz, Eckstut Architects (EE&K) are responsible for Union Station’s eastern building, which was constructed in the 1990s. Its oft-photographed glassy dome ceiling covers a notable public art piece: a mural by famed muralist Richard Wyatt.

Kit Leong / shutterstock.com

Lukshon

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Gregory K. Williams, RA (MASS Architecture & Design)

The Culver City eatery inside the Helms Bakery complex won an award for restaurant design from the AIA in 2011.

King/Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science

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Harold L. Williams, FAIA (Harold Williams Associates) and Mark E. Graham, AIA (WLC Architects)

WLC was the lead architect on the building of the school, which was completed in 1996. Harold Williams Associates was the associate architect. The school is constantly touted as a success story for sending many graduates to top-tier colleges. The school is fronted by an enormous concrete relief public art piece by Tina Allen depicting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Dr. Charles Drew.

The Theme Building

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Paul R. Williams, AIA

The building is attributed to Pereira & Luckman, but Williams was part of the team that designed LAX’s striking Theme Building. The trailblazing architect made a name for himself designing homes for such clients as Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Williams was the first African American member of the American Institute of Architects and later became the organization’s first black fellow in 1957.

John Zacherle/Creative Commons

Beverly Hills Hotel

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Paul R. Williams, AIA

Though architect Elmer Grey designed the hotel, Paul R. Williams went on to make many additions to it, updating the lobby, adding on the Crescent Wing of the hotel and its Palm Terrace.



Alex Millauer / shutterstock.com

Paul R. Williams residence

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Paul R. Williams, AIA

A city historic-cultural monument, the house Paul R. Williams designed for himself and his family is a gem in Lafayette Square, a neighborhood of stunning historic homes. The residence is a graceful mix of Hollywood Regency hallmarks—oval spaces, sweeping curves—and more Modernist influences, seen in the home’s International-style exterior, says The Paul R. Williams Project. The house came on the market for the first time ever in December 2017 and sold about three months later for a little under its $2.395 million asking price.

Prior to 1948, Williams would not have been able to live in Lafayette Square, The Paul R. Williams Project notes. The community was off-limits to non-whites via a so-called restrictive deed covenant, which prevented African-Americans, Asians, and other non-whites from living in the neighborhood. Williams built his home here in 1952.

Photo by Benny Chan.
Courtesy of Deasy/Penner

St. Philip the Evangelist Episcopal Church

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Williams, Garrott & Young

Built in 1929, this church was built for the congregation of St. Phillip the Evangelist Church, the first historically African American congregation in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and the second oldest historically black Episcopal parish west of the Mississippi, according to the church’s city landmark application. The structure was designed by Williams, Garrott & Young; the Williams was Paul R. Williams, and the Garrott was James H. Garrott. Williams was a member of the congregation and also oversaw the design of the parish hall, according to the LA Sentinel.

Via Google Maps

Edgewater Inn (Seaport Marina Hotel)

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Roy Sealey, AIA

The gloriously Googie Edgewater Inn was built in the lead-up to the 1967 World’s Fair, which was planned for Long Beach but never materialized. According to Longbeachize, the hotel held 200 rooms and suites, two cocktails lounges, meeting space to 1,500 people, a “yacht catering service,” and the nation’s first yacht dealership in a hotel. Each hotel room had either a courtyard or oceanfront view. The flashy exterior included “a folded-plate roofline,” screens of concrete block, and a collection of Y-shaped piers that touched the roofline.

Architect Roy Sealey studied at USC and worked in the office of Paul R. Williams before striking out on his own. The Edgewater Inn, more recently called the Seaport Marina Hotel, was demolished in October 2017.

Chase Knolls

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Ralph Vaughn and Heth Wharton

These garden apartments in Sherman Oaks were built between 1947 and 1949 to address the booming demand for housing in the Valley after World War II. A historic-cultural monument, the Chase Knolls apartment buildings have “a simple and utilitarian modern appearance, with elegant horizontal lines, steel casement windows, and wide overhanging eaves, shading upper windows from the hot Valley sun,” says the LA Conservancy. Vaughn, a black architect, and Wharton went on to design a handful of other garden apartments across LA, including Lincoln Place in Venice and apartments in North Hollywood.

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Douglas F. Dollarhide Community Center

Photo by Nico Marques. Courtesy of BASE Architecture.

Michael H. Anderson, RA (BASE Architecture)

This two-story structure in Compton, designed by BASE Architecture, serves the community with programs focused on senior citizens, activity spaces, a gym, and a media room. The center is named after Compton’s first black mayor, who was elected in 1969.

Photo by Nico Marques. Courtesy of BASE Architecture.

Fountainview at Gonda

Barbara H. Bouza, FAIA, (Gensler)

The Fountainview at Gonda Westside is a housing complex for seniors run by the Los Angeles Jewish Home. The Playa Vista project was designed by a team at Gensler under managing director Barbara Bouza.

Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center

Los Angeles Exteriors And Landmarks - 2016 Photo by FG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Gabrielle Bullock, FAIA, (Perkins + Will)

Pei Partnership served as the design architect for the structure, with Perkins + Will serving as the executive architect for the prominent hospital.

Los Angeles Exteriors And Landmarks - 2016 Photo by FG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science

Drake Dillard, AIA (Kennard Design Group)

The university opened after the 1965 Watts uprising to bring the community “a graduate medical school to educate the minority populations of Los Angeles.”

Physician’s Dormitory at Martin Luther King Jr. General Community Hospital

Via Google Maps

Charles E. Fleming, AIA & Carey K. Jenkins, FAIA (Jenkins Fleming Architects)

The firm of Fleming, Jenkins Architects was part of a three-architect team that worked on the hospital, but Fleming, Jenkins alone was responsible for the design of the dormitory for physicians. The hospital, Watts’s first, was a major milestone. According to an article in the December 1974 issue of Ebony magazine, a commission headed by a former head of the CIA concluded that one of the main causes of the Watts uprising was “the absence of even one adequate and accessible medical facility within the community of some 400,000.” The hospital opened in 1972.

Via Google Maps

Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Building

A 2008 photo of the building. Los Angeles/Wikimedia Commons

James H. Garrott, AIA

Not to be confused with the other Golden State Mutual Life Insurance building on West Adams Boulevard, this Spanish Colonial Revival structure is considered the insurance company’s first permanent home. It was commissioned specifically for the company, once the largest black-owned business west of the Mississippi, and built in 1928. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is also a city Historic-Cultural Monument.

According to the application for national historic status, the architect, Garrott, “was one of the two most notable African American architects in Los Angeles; the other was Paul Williams.” Garrott was the second black member of the AIA (after Williams). Garrott also collaborated with Gregory Ain on a Silver Lake office building which the two men shared.

A 2008 photo of the building. Los Angeles/Wikimedia Commons

Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Co.

A yellow, 1940s-era mid-rise building at an intersection. Kwasi Boyd-Bouldin

Paul R. Williams, AIA

This five-story office complex, designed in the Late Moderne style by famed architect Paul R. Williams, opened as the company’s new headquarters in 1949. The lobby still contains two original murals—“Exploration and Colonization” by Charles Alston​ and ​Hale Woodruff’s “Settlement and Development.” Together the pieces were named “The Negro in California History.”

The black-owned business folded in 2009, but the building remains a stunning marker of achievement.

A yellow, 1940s-era mid-rise building at an intersection. Kwasi Boyd-Bouldin

California African American Museum

Los Angeles Cityscapes and City Views Getty Images

Jack W. Haywood, AIA and Vincent J. Proby, AIA

Beginning in 1981, the California African American Museum operated out of a section of what’s now the California Science Center. In 1984, while the Olympics were underway in LA, the museum’s permanent home opened. Willowbrook residents may be familiar with another work by Proby—he designed the County of Los Angeles Public Library’s A C Bilbrew branch and the mosaic-like glass artwork inside the building. The library was completed in 1974.

Los Angeles Cityscapes and City Views Getty Images

Jesse A. Brewer, 77th Street Regional Police Headquarters

Robert Kennard, FAIA, (Kennard Design Group)

Inspired by the success of Paul R. Williams, who designed mansions for celebrities and the LA elite, Robert Kennard began his career creating residential designs. He later shifted to work on public buildings, the New York Times wrote in Kennard’s 1995 obituary. According to SoCal NOMA, this police station was one of his last works.

Jules Stein Eye Institute UCLA

James E. Silcott, AIA

Silcott was the first African American project architect for both Los Angeles County and the University of California. In addition to this UCLA eye clinic, Silcott designed the UCLA Boathouse at Marina del Rey and the Inglewood Courts Building.

The Pacific Design Center (Blue Building)

Norma M. Sklarek, FAIA (Gruen Associates)

Norma Sklarek, the first black woman to become a licensed architect in the U.S., was the director at Gruen Associates at the time when Cesar Pelli, then a partner at Gruen, designed the Pacific Design Center’s blue building, nicknamed the Blue Whale. Sklarek’s duties at Gruen included “coordinating the technical aspects of major projects” including the Blue Whale, according to the Los Angeles Times’s obituary for Sklarek. In its obituary for Sklarek, Inc. magazine explained that she was responsible for the actual building and construction of the Blue Whale.

View this post on Instagram

#CeruleanCity

A post shared by Andrew Cheng (@andrewqcheng) on

Union Station Gateway East Portal Building

Kit Leong / shutterstock.com

Roland A. Wiley, AIA (RAW International)

RAW International and Ehrenkrantz, Eckstut Architects (EE&K) are responsible for Union Station’s eastern building, which was constructed in the 1990s. Its oft-photographed glassy dome ceiling covers a notable public art piece: a mural by famed muralist Richard Wyatt.

Kit Leong / shutterstock.com

Lukshon

Gregory K. Williams, RA (MASS Architecture & Design)

The Culver City eatery inside the Helms Bakery complex won an award for restaurant design from the AIA in 2011.

King/Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science

Harold L. Williams, FAIA (Harold Williams Associates) and Mark E. Graham, AIA (WLC Architects)

WLC was the lead architect on the building of the school, which was completed in 1996. Harold Williams Associates was the associate architect. The school is constantly touted as a success story for sending many graduates to top-tier colleges. The school is fronted by an enormous concrete relief public art piece by Tina Allen depicting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Dr. Charles Drew.

The Theme Building

John Zacherle/Creative Commons

Paul R. Williams, AIA

The building is attributed to Pereira & Luckman, but Williams was part of the team that designed LAX’s striking Theme Building. The trailblazing architect made a name for himself designing homes for such clients as Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Williams was the first African American member of the American Institute of Architects and later became the organization’s first black fellow in 1957.

John Zacherle/Creative Commons

Beverly Hills Hotel



Alex Millauer / shutterstock.com

Paul R. Williams, AIA

Though architect Elmer Grey designed the hotel, Paul R. Williams went on to make many additions to it, updating the lobby, adding on the Crescent Wing of the hotel and its Palm Terrace.



Alex Millauer / shutterstock.com

Paul R. Williams residence

Photo by Benny Chan.
Courtesy of Deasy/Penner

Paul R. Williams, AIA

A city historic-cultural monument, the house Paul R. Williams designed for himself and his family is a gem in Lafayette Square, a neighborhood of stunning historic homes. The residence is a graceful mix of Hollywood Regency hallmarks—oval spaces, sweeping curves—and more Modernist influences, seen in the home’s International-style exterior, says The Paul R. Williams Project. The house came on the market for the first time ever in December 2017 and sold about three months later for a little under its $2.395 million asking price.

Prior to 1948, Williams would not have been able to live in Lafayette Square, The Paul R. Williams Project notes. The community was off-limits to non-whites via a so-called restrictive deed covenant, which prevented African-Americans, Asians, and other non-whites from living in the neighborhood. Williams built his home here in 1952.

Photo by Benny Chan.
Courtesy of Deasy/Penner

St. Philip the Evangelist Episcopal Church

Via Google Maps

Williams, Garrott & Young

Built in 1929, this church was built for the congregation of St. Phillip the Evangelist Church, the first historically African American congregation in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and the second oldest historically black Episcopal parish west of the Mississippi, according to the church’s city landmark application. The structure was designed by Williams, Garrott & Young; the Williams was Paul R. Williams, and the Garrott was James H. Garrott. Williams was a member of the congregation and also oversaw the design of the parish hall, according to the LA Sentinel.

Via Google Maps

Edgewater Inn (Seaport Marina Hotel)

Roy Sealey, AIA

The gloriously Googie Edgewater Inn was built in the lead-up to the 1967 World’s Fair, which was planned for Long Beach but never materialized. According to Longbeachize, the hotel held 200 rooms and suites, two cocktails lounges, meeting space to 1,500 people, a “yacht catering service,” and the nation’s first yacht dealership in a hotel. Each hotel room had either a courtyard or oceanfront view. The flashy exterior included “a folded-plate roofline,” screens of concrete block, and a collection of Y-shaped piers that touched the roofline.

Architect Roy Sealey studied at USC and worked in the office of Paul R. Williams before striking out on his own. The Edgewater Inn, more recently called the Seaport Marina Hotel, was demolished in October 2017.

Chase Knolls

Ralph Vaughn and Heth Wharton

These garden apartments in Sherman Oaks were built between 1947 and 1949 to address the booming demand for housing in the Valley after World War II. A historic-cultural monument, the Chase Knolls apartment buildings have “a simple and utilitarian modern appearance, with elegant horizontal lines, steel casement windows, and wide overhanging eaves, shading upper windows from the hot Valley sun,” says the LA Conservancy. Vaughn, a black architect, and Wharton went on to design a handful of other garden apartments across LA, including Lincoln Place in Venice and apartments in North Hollywood.