Saturday, October 10, 2009

Free Spirit

Wayne Williams FAIA passed away in November of 2007, a uniquely creative and engaging person who had a major impact on regional design and architecture here in South Pasadena, centered in the 1414 Fair Oaks complex that was the nexus of a very accomplished group, as well as many others of us who worked there over the years. His philosophy was a highly collaborative, process-oriented design approach grounded in science and an integration of the environment that mirrored the early modern influence of asian sensibilities.

Wayne's career is particularly highlighted by his interest in and accomplishment in the areas of city planning and recreation, which is evidenced in his 1963 nomination to the Fellowship of the American Institute of Architects:

“…it is in the wider aspects of city planning and the coordination of buildings, non-buildings and open spaces into a human scaled, unified entity that Mr. Williams deserves special attention.”

Mr. Williams was instrumental in forming ‘Community Facilities Planners,’ an association of consultants which makes possible professional collaboration on complex planning projects.

Mr. William’s special interest is recreation, not only in its usual sense and definition, but in an attitude toward life, which might very well fuse our work and play together so that they are indistinguishable.”
The aesthetic environment that Wayne Williams, Whit Smith, and Garrett Eckbo created out of steel, stucco, wood, glass, plants and water in 1958 at 1414 Fair Oaks in South Pasadena became a creative crucible for interdisciplinary approaches to community design and planning. The chief designer was Bob Thorguson and the project director was Shig Eddow. The garden court office building was a virtual creative cloister for architects, engineers, city planners and interior, landscape and graphic designers. The building was considered a very progressive and important example of contemporary Modern design and collected an impressive array of awards.

Projects developed by the firm of Smith & Williams also include the 1965 Friend Paper Co. on Green Street in Pasadena, a mid-century modern building recently adapted for mixed use, and their 1956 Mobil gas station on Harbor Boulevard in Anaheim. Community Master Plan designs were a key component of their practice, such as suburban layouts for Mission Bay Park in San Diego and California City in Kern County.

In retrospect, Williams noted: “ The…idea was to surround ourselves with the best and the brightest from other disciplines that we could learn from and enjoy working with: Garrett Eckbo, Simon Eisner, John Kariotis, Edgardo Contini, A. Quincy Jones and many others. Some moved in, while others continued to collaborate while maintaining offices elsewhere.”