The American Institute of Architects Archives
Architects Roster questionnaire, 1953
Environmental Design Archives, University of California, Berkeley
Collection number 1976-2. Extent: 66 cartons, 131 manuscript boxes, 22 1/2 flat boxes, 26 flat file drawers, 4 negative boxes, 1 shoebox, approximately 500 tubes, 1 artifact.
Records of the architectural firm Wurster, Bernardi, and Emmons (WBE) span the years 1922-1974, and include the files of its parent firm, William W. Wurster (Wurster). The collection is organized into six series: Professional Papers, Office Records, Project Records 1922-1944, Project Records 1945-1974, United States Housing Agency projects, and Additional Donations. Within these series original order has been maintained wherever it is evident.
The majority of the collection documents Wurster and WBE projects. Office Records such as photographs, presentation boards, clippings and scrapbooks were most likely created and collected to promote the firm. They record not only the buildings themselves, but indicate how projects were presented, interpreted and received. The firm's Project Records and the United States Housing Authority files are quite thorough, and include extensive written records (correspondence, specifications, notes, and reports) as well as drawings and construction photographs.
Wurster's collaborative relationships and professional friendships are also documented in the Professional Papers series of the collection. Correspondence files document Wurster's communication with Alvar Aalto. Project files document the collaborative work of Wurster and WBE with landscape architects Thomas Church, Lockwood deForest, and Lawrence Halprin, among others. A number of architects who later became well-known in their own rights worked for WBE early in their careers, and it is interesting to note the signatures of architects such as Arne Kartwold and Germano Milono on various drawings and correspondence. Wurster and WBE also collaborated and consulted with other major architects, artists, and interior designers of the day, including Edward Durell Stone, Vernon DeMars, A. Quincy Jones, Pietro Belluschi, O'Neil Ford, Isamu Noguchi, Francis Elkins, Maurice Sands, and Beth Armstrong. Wurster's philosophy was that all work in the office itself was collaborative, and would not allow clients to berate his partners or associates while praising his own design sense. He routinely answered letters from clients or admirers who had erroneously assumed a design to be his, gently insisting that credit be given where due, whether it be to Bernardi, Emmons, or an associate in the firm. When designs and buildings were published, credit for every design was assigned to the entire firm, regardless of who was responsible for the main design idea.
There are some gaps in the collection. Large corporate projects, such as the Safeway stores and the Bank of America World Headquarters, are vastly underrepresented in the project files, possibly because the records were retained by the corporate clients. However, the majority of the project files contain a great deal of information about the relevant personnel, the clients, the design development, and the back-and-forth between the architects and clients over design decisions, budgets, finishes, and legal issues. Even during the years that Wurster spent at MIT, his hand is evident in the design of all of the office's projects; correspondence documents the other partners and associates in the firm mailing him their original schemes followed by his alternately scathing and encouraging comments on the best and worst features of their designs. Wurster also offered his services as a consultant on a number of large projects in Texas and other states; these projects are documented in the project files.
While appraising the project files, a large amount of non-permanent material was removed. Transmittal letters were removed almost entirely, and only a representative sample of financial records were retained. Most of the telephone notes, bid documents, consultant and engineer reports, and job notes were sampled to a large or small degree; however, a great deal of information about a project can be gleaned from informal telephone and job notes, and as such most of them were preserved. Routine job correspondence was also sampled, especially in the case of large corporate clients. When appraising residential records, care was taken to preserve all non-routine correspondence and, in some cases where documentation was scant, all material in a project file was retained.
The bulk of the collection was donated in 1976, with additional materials being transferred from the firm in 1977, 1995, 1996, and 1998. All records donated by other sources are included in series six, and primarily relate to residential projects.
Link to online finding aid: http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/tf8k40079x