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6 Architects Who Have Shaped California
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6 Architects Who Have Shaped California

Here are the California architects who have made The Golden State we admire and want to explore endlessly what it is today.

Palig Dzadourian


4 min read

April 07, 2022

Architecture is a significant part of every society; not only does it hold an aesthetic value, but it also gives us a peek into the culture and the history that has shaped the people living in that area. It is an expression of who we are.

Being one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse areas with a long history, it comes as no surprise that California has a myriad of architectural styles spread out across the state. You can be sure of one thing when walking around here however, you will not find yourself feeling bored of the same redundant buildings strewn across the blocks. There is no shortage of interesting and visually appealing styles of architecture in California, every architect has managed to implement their style and expression into their works, giving the state its signature features. Let us introduce you to a few of the many who have shaped our beloved Golden State.

1. Julia Morgan

The magnificent Hearst Castle, an enchanting and influential structure.

Born in 1872, architect and engineer Julia Morgan has made history in the architectural world. Being the first woman to be admitted into the architecture program of L’école Nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, she was also the first woman in the field to be licensed in California. During her long career, Morgan has designed more than 700 buildings in the Golden State, the most famous of which is the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, the Julia Morgan Theater which she considers her finest work, and many more. In fields dominated mainly by men, Morgan rose to the top as a representative of women, becoming part of the most famous architects in California and arguably the world.

2. Frank Gehry

The striking Disney Concert Hall constructed by Frank Gehry stands out with its swirls and peculiar shapes.

One of the most important and famous architects of the modern era in California is undoubtedly the Canadian-born American: Frank Gehry. Born in a family of artists, Gehry practiced the art of creating and designing from a very young age. Encouraged by his mother, Frank Gehry decided to pursue architecture as a career and eventually created a new language in the field. Gehry’s peculiar style of sweeping shapes and choice of unusual materials made him one of the most influential California architects. Known for a variety of structures from all over the world, his creation of the Walt Disney Concert Hall is arguably one of the most famous buildings in Los Angeles.

3. Paul Revere Williams

An iconic Googie structure located in Los Angeles International Airport, among Williams’ most well-known works.

Designer of homes of many celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball, Lon Chaney, and a few others, Paul Revere Williams is the first black man to be elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. Born in 1894, Williams and his brother were put in foster care after their parents passed away. Williams eventually decided to pursue architecture as a career, being exceptionally talented he found no difficulty in landing internships despite the prevailing racial discrimination of the time. The young architect overcame prejudice to design homes in neighborhoods he could not live in and even learned to draw upside down so he could sit across from his white clients, not next to them. Some of his most known works include the 28th Street YMCA, listed as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument, The Theme Building, and many more.

4. Frank Lloyd Wright

A perfect blend of man-made structure and natural environment, The Mill Run is one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most beautiful buildings.

Often considered to be the father of American modernist and contemporary architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright came into the field and decided it was time for a change. Born in 1867, Wright’s path into the architecture domain was quite unconventional, never having finished high school or university he was lucky enough to be mentored by the legendary architect Louis Sullivan. The master architect rejected the European style that most designers went for at the time and reached for innovation. Wright believed that humans should live in harmony with nature, and based his works on that way of thinking, most of his buildings feel like they are a part of the scenery around them, almost like they sprouted from the ground. Although Frank Lloyd Wright’s career did not originate in California, he eventually made his mark by building some very famous structures there, one of them being the V.C Morris Gift Shop found in San Francisco. Wright liked to use the word “Usonian” when referring to American architecture, believing that saying “American” was too reminiscent of native American features.

5. Helen Liu Fong

One of the most well preserved iconic structures in Los Angeles, the historic Helen Liu Fong’s “Pann’s Coffee Shop”.

Another pioneer in the field of architecture, not only was Helen Liu Fong one of the first women to venture into the world of structural design, she was almost a rarity, being one of the very few Chinese-American women who decided to pursue a career in architecture. Fong didn’t start out with architecture, as she first graduated with a planning degree from UC Berkeley, then started working as a secretary for architect Eugene Choy, where she was introduced to the administrative side of architecture. The young woman then started working for the architectural firm named Armet and Davis, working on interior design and as an administrator for the company. She soon became renowned for her keen eye for interior design and the futuristic style she adopted, a great example would be The Pann’s Coffee Shop, one of her best-known works.

6. Rudolph Schindler

Tucked away in a small corner of nature, Rudolph Schindler’s structures blend in perfectly with the environment they are in.

Heavily inspired by the master architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Rudolph Schindler is known for defining modern architecture in Southern California. Schindler is an Austrian architect who emigrated to the United States after committing to his architectural career. Soon after he moved to Los Angeles to work with fellow architect Wright, to supervise the construction of the Hollyhock House. Schindler was devoted to every one of his clients, always making sure his work met their needs. His style is a perfect blend of engineering and artistry, “Space architecture” as he would call it since he focused on spatial and interior design. Schindler always paid close attention to the harmony of his structures with the cultural and climatic conditions of the environment around them. Some of his most eye-catching works are his own residence named “The Kings Road House” and the El Pueblo Ribera Court.

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