What do Cary Grant, Lucille Ball, Tyrone Power and Frank Sinatra, William Paley of CBS a;; have in common? Homes built by Paul Revere Williams. Our header shot is of Lucy and Desi’s home in Palm Springs—a lovely bungalow hugging the beach.
Williams was the first Black member of the American Institute of Architects, the institute’s first African-American fellow, and its first African-American gold medalist. Their achievements made more remarkable considering that African-Americans comprise just 2 percent of practicing architects in the nation today, according to the National Organization of Minority Architects.
It’s obvious that Williams was part of the Frank Lloyd Wright school of architecture, with its low horizontal building that looks like a bunch of tumbling boulders that hug the surrounding environs and peacefully co-exist. The Baird Stewart Garza house in Glendale is another where instead of hugging the beach, the house literally is moulded into the hills and looks like rocks that hug and cascade into the hills with an exterior back wall of ivy so it seems something you just happened upon, instead of part of a suburban community.
The pictures on the site show the interior as well, thus highlighting William’s care and concern for detail with all its built in cabinetry, thus making storage unobtrusive, making Williams one of the first architects to champion the marriage of architecture and interior design — just as Pluto was discovered. This was a break (Uranus in the eleventh square Mercury in the third) with his training and Frank Lloyd Wright that the architect dictates the whole megillah to the client.
Just then, as he was challenging the tradition view of architecture, on the opposite side of the country, the foundation for the Empire State Building was laid , on January 22, 1930, employing over 3,000 men for the Art déco classic. In 410 days workers laid 10 million bricks. The engineering masterpiece is supported by an elastic steel skeleton and sheathed in 200,000 cubic feet of Indiana limestone.
You can see more of his work at the Getty Museum, but they have yet to be digitized, though that is the Museum’s goal. Meanwhile USC is launching its tribute to its famous alumni, in the Paul Williams Archive Initiative, part of its USC Center for Architecture + City Design–just one more reason to visit the City of Angels. In the meantime, there is the Paul Williams Project.
“My work entails designing for the rich; my hobby is designing for the poor.”
Paul R. Williams 1884 -1985
And so Williams, branching out into a totally different direction with his Airform house, created a modern day space craft colonizing a New Mexican plateau designed for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Sadly, it does not seem to have been implemented. He also was the chief architect for the Pueblo del Rio neighborhood at 52nd Street and Long Beach Avenue in South Los Angeles, built to house Black defense industry workers during World War II . And being a religious Methodist, designed several churches in Southern California too.
A Los Angeleno through and thru
Paul Williams was born in Los Angeles on February 18, 1894 and was orphaned at a young age, but adopted by a family that nurtured his talents, paying his way through college and encouraging his career choice.
Williams has a 14 Sagittarius 02 ascendant, getting the symbol of an “Occults figure gazing thoughtfully.” Occult actually means hidden and could refer to Williams working behind the scenes on his architecture, as well as his being black. McClung writers in his Hyperion Symbols that this represents the principle of “Visualisation” and one’s ability to transform thought into deed.
This symbol is amplified by the Grand Trine in Air that dominates his chart with Saturn in Libra (in its exaltation and in the house it rules highlighting his mastery of form aligned with function), to the Neptune-Pluto conjunction in the sixth (where the two generational planets meet as they imagine new homes uplifting the spirits for the common man) to the next pair of conjunctions of Venus in Libra (which is rules) and Sun in Aquarius (which is in its detriment) in the second, endorsing the quote above where he makes beautiful homes for the rich, that he probably himself could not afford — though with success, he eventually built this beauty below in 1952 for his and his family, complete with a rounded garage underneath and long verandah to enjoy the warm LA nights. (foundation and completion dates unknown).
Download the Paul R Williams, architect natal chart here.