Robb Report (USA)

Paul R. Williams



HIS ARCHITECTU­RE defined the Hollywood aesthetic in the mid-20th century, and yet Williams had to sketch his ideas upside down: The trailblazi­ng Black architect consciousl­y opted to sit across from his white clients rather than next to them, cognizant that such proximity to a Black manmightma­kethemunea­sy. It’sjustoneex­ample of the rampant racism that Williams faced in his profession. His contributi­ons to the Beverly Hills Hotel (pictured) include its instantly recognizab­le swoopy logo and pink-and-green color scheme, as well as his work on its Polo Lounge, but he was not permitted to stay there. He designed 2,000 homes in Los Angeles—celebrity clients included Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra—but many were in neighborho­ods where he would have been barred from buying a house. His legacy, however, is indelible: As the first Black member of the American Institute of Architects, he hoped that his work would ultimately open doors for the next generation.

“The Hollywood style and Art Deco of California’s charm is all to do with his presence in the structures. He set the standard for the cinematic style and glamour for Hollywood and the film industry—something that is still replicated throughout Hollywood today . . . .

“It does a lot for me to think about what he may have been experienci­ng during the designing period, knowing the state of the country during the 1930s, ’40s, ’50s and

’60s and its treatment of Black Americans. He pushed through to produce memorable works to be used by the public; his works were wanted by the very Americans who rejected his Black body, and that speaks more to me as a Black Caribbean designer in 2021.” —Leyden Lewis, Leyden Lewis Design Studio

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