Legendary architect Paul Revere Williams blazed trail


"He had an unshakable belief in his own talent and in the power of what would happen when people actually came into the space," said architect Michael Willis.

"When I first walked in, I think the flow of the space and the layout that's really cool. So when you walk in, it has a nice entry. I like the curved mouldings and walls in the entryway," said homeowner Jeff Horowitz.

Horowitz owns one of the only Paul Williams homes in the city of San Francisco, built in 1939 in Pacific Heights.

"It's beautiful. You know, it's changed over the years, but what hasn't changed is really the Paul Williams element; in terms of the railings and the pillars and the windows, it seems very traditional to a lot of his work," said Horowitz.

It has been said that Paul Revere Williams used architecture as a way to enhance people's lives, no matter their socio-economic status. He helped design the first government subsidized housing project.

But, Williams was best known as the architect to the stars designing mansions for the rich and famous even though he was not allowed to live in their neighborhoods.

Like many of his homes, they have been hosts to millionaires and dignitaries, like President Obama.

Paul Williams attended the University of Southern California, but never graduated. Instead, he opened his own practice and became the first black member of the American Institute of Architects, designing some 3,000 buildings before his death in 1980.

It was the support of his foster parents and his passion for drawing that helped him overcome the burdens of his race to design a better future.

"There were people who would deny and say no and you can't but that was in this abstract world," said Willis. "His world was in actually putting the materials together and getting the buildings built and then letting the work speak for him."

He also developed the ability to draw upside down so as to not make his clients uncomfortable by standing next to them.

And his buildings would become some of the most recognizable in the world.

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