1949, Los Angeles, California
Throughout his life, Paul R. Williams was a leading member of the African American community in Los Angeles and designer of its significant buildings. One of his earliest important commissions was the Second Baptist Church (1924). Two years later, he designed the 28th Street YMCA to serve the South Central neighborhood. Meanwhile, Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company (GSM) opened its doors in 1925 to provide financial security to the black community.
Two decades later, Williams was one of America’s foremost architects, and GSM, now one of the nation’s largest black-owned businesses, needed a new home. At a major intersection in the upscale West Adams district, Williams designed an efficient modern office building that conveyed the company’s importance and its mission to serve as a hub for African American life.
The classical/Moderne style expressed solidity and permanence in a contemporary idiom. Williams sited the building so that its entrance area became a civic plaza and the lofty, art-filled lobby a beautiful and dignified gathering place. The lobby opened into a state of the art 400-seat auditorium for performances and community meetings. GSM surrounded staff and visitors with art that celebrated African and African American creativity.
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