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AN ELOQUENT MODERNIST: E. STEWART WILLIAMS, ARCHITECT

November 9th, 2014 – February 22nd, 2015

An Eloquent Modernist: E. Stewart Williams, Architect, provided a comprehensive retrospective of Williams’s creative output and affords a view of his role in the development of modern architecture in Palm Springs. It included drawings, renderings, models, photographs, watercolors, etchings, and film clips to illuminate his artistic sensibility and proficiency with diverse of media. Since he created his architectural drawings on a drafting table, before the wide-spread use of the computer, he often remarked that, “It’s amazing what a pencil can do.” Featuring a selection of projects, the exhibition highlighted Williams’s approach to architecture that: buildings should naturally inhabit their sites and be in concert with their environment.

An Eloquent Modernist: E. Stewart Williams, Architect, provided a comprehensive retrospective of Williams’s creative output and affords a view of his role in the development of modern architecture in Palm Springs. It included drawings, renderings, models, photographs, watercolors, etchings, and film clips to illuminate his artistic sensibility and proficiency with diverse of media. Since he created his architectural drawings on a drafting table, before the wide-spread use of the computer, he often remarked that, “It’s amazing what a pencil can do.” Featuring a selection of projects, the exhibition highlighted Williams’s approach to architecture that: buildings should naturally inhabit their sites and be in concert with their environment.

Joining his father Harry and brother Roger in architecture practice, the three men formed Williams, Williams, and Williams in 1946. Locals referred to the firm as “Williams cubed.” Working in a rapidly expanding community after World War II, they were offered a variety of commissions, Stewart serving as the design partner. From his first house, the Frank Sinatra Residence, in 1947, to his last projects in the 1990s, he designed numerous homes as well as hospitals, schools, colleges, civic buildings, and banks, bringing to each project his careful attention to siting, details, client program, and function.

In addition to his architectural practice, he was active in the Coachella Valley and beyond, lecturing on the need for public understanding of city planning to protect the environment. He articulated an early awareness of the impact of urban sprawl on traffic, smog, and land use. As chairman of the Downtown Collaborative, he along with six of the leading Palm Springs architects, devoted four years studying the central core of the city and making recommendations on building clusters, parking, density, pedestrian walk-ways, open space, and view corridors. The plan was not adopted and now, more than fifty years later, one of his buildings on the main street has been transformed from a bank into the Architecture and Design Center, Edwards Harris Pavilion.

His two largest and most complex projects, the Palm Springs Art Museum and Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa, reveal both his commitment to creating inviting and people-friendly spaces. As a dedicated modernist, his designs contain elegant details, warm materials, and a connection between interior and exterior.  It was Williams’s ability to communicate his ideas clearly, combined with his easy charm that made his passion for architecture infectious.

The fully illustrated catalogue published by the Palm Springs Art Museum for this exhibition is available for purchase at the Bradford W. Bates Vault: Museum Design Store (760-322-4897) and at Palm Springs Art Museum Store (760-322-4830).

In addition, a film documenting Williams’s life has been produced by Design Onscreen, and was shown in the museum's Annenberg Theater and at the Palm Springs International Film Festival 2015.

This exhibition was organized by Palm Springs Art Museum and funded by the Architecture and Design Council, Mark E Pollack, Elizabeth Edwards Harris, Phillips, Richard Lord and Brian Schipper, Roswitha Smale, Brent Harris, Donald Wexler, J.R. Roberts, and Tom and Marianne O'Connell 

Exhibition Season Sponsors: Dorothy and Harold J. Meyerman and Arlene Schnitzer