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Paul Williams Deserves Better

Orrlaxthemebuilding*(Please note:  After writing the below post, I've been informed that Paul Williams worked as a consultant on the LAX Theme Building for Pereira & Luckman Associates - below I'll post links that Philip Ferrato  sent me.  While I did quote the information I've read from sources such as USC and L.A. Conservancy - I didn't specifically state Williams's involvement.  My point in writing the post was:  None of the architects were mentioned in the LA Times article.  And, for me, Paul Williams stands out as being someone more people should know about - due to his overcoming an orphaned childhood and racism to become so much a part of L.A.'s architectural history.  I think his story is an important one for Angelenos to know. Anyway, I'd hate to write anything misleading, and appreciate Philip Ferrato's corrections.  So, ironically, while I tried to give Paul Williams his due respect, I was leaving out the other architects - such as James Langenheim, who Philip says initiated the design.)

Here's the original post, minus a copy of the letter to the editor written by an architect who mentions Paul Williams as the designer -

Sure, Los Angeles has a few symbolic structures that represent our city:  The Hollywood sign, the Griffith Park Observatory, Mann's (once Grauman's) Chinese Theater and the Frank Gehry designed Disney Hall, to name the most obvious.  But what is the one iconic structure that many visitors flying into Los Angeles Airport see for the time?  The answer:  The LAX theme building, designed by Pereira & Luckman Associates, Welton Becket & Associates, and Paul R. Williams.  According to the Los Angeles Conservancy Modern Committee the building is Los Angeles Cultural Heritage monument #570. (Photo of LAX Theme Building Courtesy Ryan Orr )

But last Friday (3/9/07), the Los Angeles Times printed this article about how the LAX theme building will be closed due to problems with falling stucco, without once mentioning the architects; even though the writer acknowledged the building is "iconic," and quoted Allen Rothenberg, president of Los Angeles airport commission as saying, "It certainly is a symbol."

Only days before, I mentioned to my architect friend Marv how weird it is that more people don't know about architect, Paul Williams:  An African-American man who overcame being orphaned at the age of four and racism to become one of L.A.'s most popular, skilled and hard working architects.

So here was L.A. Times opportunity to inform LA citizens and yet they didn't mention any of the architects, which would include Paul Williams.  I think any chance The Times has to inform the public about our city's history, they should take it.  And to write about the iconic status of the building without mentioning those involved in its creation, is just odd to me.

Philip Ferrato told me "The architect who initiated the design was James

Langenheim."  And he also sent me the links below -

Here's a USC website regarding Paul Williams, and in it Julius Shulman writes:

Regarding your presentation of the work of renowned architect Paul Williams: I’d like to call your attention to a problem we’ve had since the beginning of the reconstruction of the Los Angeles Airport. Inadvertently, editors or writers identify Paul Williams as the “architect” of the theme building at the airport. This is to call your attention to the fact that the design of the airport reconstruction was created by a “team” of architects. Paul Williams was a member of that “team.” The primary architect was Pereira & Luckman; Paul Williams was a consultant.

  Julius Shulman
Los Angeles, CA

 Here's another informative link sent by Philip Ferrato

Solstice Canyon - home to beauty and remains of a Paul Williams home -

If you've never visited Solstice Canyon in Malibu, I highly recommend it; not only for the stunning beauty - the gurgling creek, wildflowers, gnarly oaks, clear water pools and waterfalls - but to wander around the remains of a Paul R. Williams home he once built for the Roberts family.  It burned long ago, but a portion of the of the family's Tropical Terrace (now overgrown with plants) still remains.


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This needs correction. Paul Williams did not design the LAX Theme Building. The design came out of the Pereira and Luckman office. Williams did a lot of great work in LA, mostly residential work that people pay a premium for.

Philip, thank you for sending links with Mr. Williams specific involvement.

I always thought his life story would make a great movie or documentary. he's a symbol of LA's hidden history of jim crow laws.

Hey, Marissa -

You're right. Maybe one day.

I agree with you and Marissa -- a biopic on Paul Williams would be fascinating!

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