Home Biographical Database Bliznakov Prize Find Materials Donate Materials Support the IAWA

Beverly Willis Architectural Papers
1954-1998, 100 cu. ft., Ms92-019

Beverly Willis, FAIA--architect, artist, author, activist, and philanthropist, began her career in Hawaii in 1954 as an artist. She later moved to San Francisco, earned her architectural license, and by the mid-seventies Willis and Associates, Inc. had evolved into a 35-person architectural firm. Over the next 20 years Willis also held a variety of professional leadership positions, often being the first woman to do so. For example, she was president of the California Council of American Institute of Architects, served on the US delegation to the United Nations Conference on Habitat I, the executive committee of the National Academy of Science's Board on Infrastructure and Constructed Environment, and chaired the Federal Facility Council. After closing her California practice and adding her archives to the IAWA, she moved to New York City and, among other things, founded the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation in 2002. She is a founding trustee of the National Building Museum in Washington, D. C. where the Beverly Willis Library serves as the Center for the National Building Museum's Fellows.

Beverly Willis donated her professional archives and personal papers to the IAWA, housed in Special Collections at Virginia Tech's Newman Library. The Beverly Willis Architectural Papers primarily chronicle her work as an architect in San Francisco, 1958 - 1990. Willis employed the full range of visual arts and design skills to influence and guide architectural projects of major significance. Her collection also documents the application of computers to architectural design and land analysis, the development of CARLA (Computerized Approach to Residential Land Analysis) in the 1970s, 20th Century urban planning and the documentation of the contribution of women to American architecture. Her collection includes presentation drawings, site plans, maps, sketches, conceptual design drawings, construction drawings, as well as correspondence, research files, and other records. Drawings are large folio, pen-and ink or watercolor on paper, linen, or mylar.

The detailed finding aid for the Beverly Willis Architectural Papers is available in the Virginia Heritage database. Over 600 images of Willis's work are available in the VT ImageBase.

Characture of Willis by Willis

Significant Willis Buildings

Willis's San Francisco Ballet

San Francisco Ballet Building

Project Number 0753

This 1984 project entailed building design, construction drawings, and construction supervision of the four-story, 96 foot-high building in San Francisco's Civic Center. This was the first stand-alone building in the US designed and built for a ballet company, and many of my details were later incorporated into other dance buildings around the country as they were renovated or built. It was important to the city to achieve a feeling of uniformity within the Civic Center. The city wrote the design criteria for the building, calling for a contextual design that provided a matching cornice line to the Opera House adjacent and that used the same glass, color and texture as other buildings in the Civic Center.

Breaking with classical tradition, the entrance to the San Francisco Ballet is located on the corner, the curvilinear wall suggesting physical movement and offering a unique identity for the growing ballet company. Willis was intent on the design reflecting the total fabric of a dancer's life.

Willis's Vine Terrace (Nob Hill) Appartments

Vine Terrace Apartments

Project number 0594

Now known as Nob Hill Court Condominiums, 930 Vine Street, San Francisco, California, was built on the edge of downtown San Francisco in 1973 in an area known as Nob Hill. The facade, with its thickened walls and tall windows, was developed in response to a San Francisco building code requiring low-rise residential buildings to incorporate bay windows. You can see the typical San Francisco bay window style in the building directly to the right of the Vine Street Apartments. Using a courtyard plan, the design effectively mitigates the noise of heavily trafficked streets, as well as to create safe shared private space and better air circulation to all units. Beneath the courtyard is a 2-story garage.

Margaret S. Hayward Playground

Margaret S. Hayward Playground

Project number 0716

Designed for the City of San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department, the Margaret S. Hayward Playground Building has received many awards. This one room "toy" building where children can play indoors includes an office, rest rooms, and food serving facilities. Designed as part of the play yard, it is not much taller than the playground equipment.

Bay Club at Yerba Buena Gardens

Yerba Buena Gardens

Project number 0752

Beverly Willis organized the architect/builder team that included Olympia and York, the Marriott Corp., and Willis as developers, and Zeidler-Roberts Partnership, and Willis & Associates, Inc. as architects. The team won the 1980 international competition for the rights to design and build the Yerba Buena Gardens, a 24 acre mixed-use complex in downtown San Francisco, California. Among the multiple uses, were an art center, theatre, offices, retail, hotel, and gardens. After the master plan was completed and approved, the project was caught in the economic downturn of 1984 and only the hotel was built. Other companies completed the project years later.

Manhattan Village Academy Media Center

Manhattan Village Academy

Project number 0807

In 1993, Deborah Meier, Director of the Center for Collaborative Education, and Mary Butz, Principal of the alternative public high school, Manhattan Village Academy, asked Willis and her Architecture Research Institute to design school floor plans which would support pedagogy for "project teaching." The 400-student high school was designed in an existing loft space at 43 W. 22nd St., New York, New York and built by the New York Department of Education as a potential prototype for its small schools, a new idea at that time.

Prototype for Internal Revenue Service Computer Center

Internal Revenue Service Computer Center

Project number 0676

Unbuilt computer center prototype for the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, General Services Administration, Kansas City, Kansas was to be built on nine IRS campuses and attached to existing buildings, the first to be built in Lexington, Kentucky. The building was designed to expand from 2 to 4 floors covering the open courtyard with a four story high atrium in the center of the building. President Jimmy Carter vetoed the funds for the building--making headlines across the country--in response to a nationwide protest against automating income tax returns.

Aliamanu building 1

Aliamanu Valley Community

Project number 0660

Adjacent to Pearl Harbor Naval Base, the Aliamanu Valley New Town consisted of 525 buildings for military families and housed 11,500 people in Honolulu, Hawaii. The town was planned, designed, and engineered by Willis & Associates, Inc. It was the first major largest project planned with CARLA (Computerized Approach to Residential Land Analysis, for which the software was developed by Willis with Eric Tiescholz and Jochen Eigen). The $210 million dollar (in 1976 dollars) was designed at a record-breaking rate due to the use of CARLA software and was notably built on schedule and within budget.

Union Street Store Front

Union Street Shops

Project number 0318

The Union Street Stores were a seed in the nascent trend towards adaptive re-use, a 20th century movement that began in San Francisco a decade before the reconstruction of Faneuil Hall in Boston, though historians rarely recognize historic reuse as a west coast innovation. The stores on Union Street were built in the early 1900s. In order to make the project profitable and to fit enough retail space into a limited building footprint, Willis raised the buildings up, creating an extra floor level beneath the existing structure. This created enough space to house 9 shops and 2 restaurants, and allowed the design to keep the existing buildings intact.

Pacific Point Condominiums Topography

Pacific Point Condominium Apartments

Project number 0628

Alpha Land Company, Pacifica, California

Pacific Point Condominiums, 5001-5017 Palmetto Ave., Pacifica, California, consists of eight buildings with 98 homes. Built on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, each home has a spectacular view. But as the soil on the site was partially unstable, Willis used the CARLA program. In this, its first application, it successfully helped the designers to solve site issues. The buildings were designed in a fan shaped floor plan and its facades were made of white stucco with stained wood trim.

IAWA logo

International Archive of Women in Architecture

The IAWA was founded in 1985 to collect, preserve, and make available to researchers the history of women's involvement in architecture. There are over 260 collections (as of 2007) including the professional papers of women architects, landscape architects, designers, architectural historians and critics, and urban planners, as well as the records of women's architectural organizations. The IAWA is a joint program of Virginia Tech's University Libraries and College of Architecture and Urban Studies.

Online from the IAWA

IAWA Board of Advisors
Archivist's Annual Reports
IAWA Center Newsletters
IAWA In the News
Special Collections
Send questions or comments to:
IAWA Archivist, University Libraries
Virginia Tech, P.O. Box 90001,
Blacksburg, VA 24062-9001

Home Biographical Database Bliznakov Prize Find Materials Donate Materials Support the IAWA

URL: http://spec.lib.vt.edu/iawa/WillisBev.html
Last modified on: Tuesday, 03-Mar-2015 15:05:40 EST GMc