Outside In: The Architecture of Smith and Williams
“The Fifties was a great place to be an architect.” —Whitney Smith
The work of Whitney Rowland Smith (1911-2002) and Smith and Williams, the architectural firm Smith founded in 1949 with Wayne Richard Williams (1919-2007), presents a portrait of mid-century modernism in postwar southern California and a mirror of the region’s unprecedented expansion during the postwar period.
“Outside In: The Architecture of Smith and Williams” was part of Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in L.A., celebrating Southern California’s lasting impact on modern architecture through exhibitions and programs organized by seventeen area arts institutions from April through July 2013. The exhibit was curated by Jocelyn Gibbs, with exhibition design by Kris Miller-Fisher.
Support for this exhibition came from the Getty Foundation, Knoll, Greg Smith, the Wayne Williams family, and the AD&A Museum’s Architecture and Design Council.
The exhibition catalog, "Outside In: The Architecture of Smith and Williams" contains essays by Anthony Denzer, Jocelyn Gibbs, Alan Hess, Debi Howell-Ardila, and Lilian Pfaff. More information about the catalog can be found here.
At the end of World War II there was great optimism and certainty that growth and prosperity were coming after years of Depression and world war. The Smith and Williams archive, with more than 600 projects, includes custom and tract housing, commercial buildings and complexes, recreational facilities, churches and schools, civic centers, new towns, and master plans, and attests to the growth of the postwar period.
Based in the Pasadena area, Smith and Williams also built in San Marino, Sierra Madre, Arcadia, Azuza, Downey, Monrovia, La Cañada Flintridge, and elsewhere in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. They were architects primarily of the suburbs and small cities growing on the periphery of Los Angeles.
Whitney Smith, Wayne Williams, and their contemporaries made a contemporary architecture based on the belief that architecture is a social act. For this generation of mid-century architects, modernism was not a style but a set of tools and competencies for solving problems and creating environments for better living.