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Welton Becket architectural drawings and photographs, 1913-2009, bulk 1930-1969

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Becket (Welton) Architectural Drawings and Photographs

Scope and Content of Collection

The Welton Becket architectural drawings and photographs document the career of this architect, whose iconic designs defined the built environment of Los Angeles in the mid-twentieth century. Comprised of over 10,000 drawings and over 1500 photographs, the collection includes a selection of projects from Becket's earliest independent work in 1930, through his involvement in the firms of Plummer, Wurdeman and Becket; Wurdeman and Becket; and Welton Becket and Associates, until his death in 1969. Also included are drawings for the early projects of Charles F. Plummer, Becket's partner in the firm Plummer, Wurdeman and Becket; drawings from projects outside Becket's normal firm structure; and limited photographic documentation of the continuing work of the Welton Becket and Associates firm after Becket's death; as well as lists of drawings for selected projects compiled recently by his son, Welton McDonald Becket.

With material spanning his forty-year career, the collection documents Becket's key role in the creation of mid-twentieth century Los Angeles, including not just the many iconic landmarks for which his firms were responsible, such as the Beverly Hilton, the Cinerama Dome, and the Capitol Records Building, but the often overlooked, everyday structures - the grocery stores and shopping centers, the hospitals and schools, the entertainment venues and government buildings, the factories and office buildings, the transportation hubs and housing tracts - that constitute the fabric of the city. Although Becket's firms, especially Welton Becket and Associates, had a high national and international profile, with work realized on five continents, the heart of his practice remained Los Angeles.

The drawings in the archive also contribute to the discussion of larger changes in architectural practice in the mid-twentieth century. Becket's firms pioneered numerous technological innovations, such as modular office design and lightweight construction, and even redefined the role of the architecural firm with the concept of total design. Welton Becket and Associates was structured as a new type of architect's office: the corporate office, one that was organized like a corporation and whose client-base consisted primarily of large corporations. These firms tended to work in a large-scale manifestation of the International Style, often referred to as Corporate International. In the hands of many firms, this style became formulaic and aesthetically far too "corporate," leading to undistinguished, repetitive structures. The drawings in the collection demonstrate how Becket's firm avoided this pitfall for the most part, devising an individualized and creative response to each client's needs, in a modern, but not too modern, style.

Projects designed by Welton Becket and his firms comprise Series I through Series V of the collection. Drawings from Welton Becket's earliest practice in Seattle, working both independently and in partnership with Walter Wurdeman, form Series I. Series II, III and IV contain drawings and occasional photographs documenting the work of the firms of Plummer, Wurdeman and Becket; Wurdeman and Becket; and Welton Becket and Associates respectively. Series V holds the drawings for projects designed by Welton Becket outside the normal structure of his firms, specifically collaborative work for the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles and government projects during World War II, as well as unidentified material.

Series VI and VII document the career of Charles Plummer both before and after his association with Welton Becket. Plummer's earliest work in partnership with Feil is represented here by the small group of drawings in Series VI. The more extensive drawings of Series VII trace Plummer's development of an independent practice during the 1920s and portions of the 1930s.

This collection is not a comprehensive record of the work of any of the firms represented. Although over 550 realized and unrealized Becket-related projects (as well as over 100 Charles Plummer projects) are included in the collection, they represent only a fraction of the projects undertaken by Becket's firms. The project titles used here are either taken directly or derived from the signature block on the drawings. The dates given for projects are primarily taken directly from the drawings, or in some instances derived from the firms' promotional materials or press coverage. The sequence of job numbers and the project dates generally correlate, but there are some exceptions, presumably due to a delay in the actual production of drawings after the job number was assigned. Locations of projects are indicated when known and all locations are in California except where noted. Within the city of Los Angeles, neighborhoods are indicated when known.

Photographic documentation, including work by prominent architectural photographers such as Julius Shulman, Marvin Rand and Douglas Simmonds, records buildings under construction or recently completed, as well as a small number of architectural models. Most of the projects in the archive, however, are represented through architectural drawings alone. The bulk of these are measured working drawings, including plans, elevations, sections, and details, both original drawings and reproductions. Preliminary drawings, perspectival drawings, renderings and presentation boards are represented to a much lesser extent. For the drawings, the designation "standard" refers to examples measuring up to 36 inches by 48 inches, with larger drawings indicated as oversize.

Arrangement

Organized in seven series:
Series I. Early practice, 1930-1932;
Series II. Plummer, Wurdeman and Becket, Architects records, 1933-1937, 1995-1998;
Series III. Wurdeman and Becket, Architects records, 1938-1950, 1995-2009;
Series IV. Welton Becket and Associates, Architects and Engineers records, 1950-1980, 1997-1998;
Series V. Collaborations and unidentified work, 1939-1945, 2009, undated;
Series VI. Plummer and Feil, Interior Designers records, 1913-1917, 1998;
Series VII. Charles F. Plummer, Architect records, 1919-1932, 1938-1939, 1995-1998.




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