Wurster, William Wilson

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William W. Wurster/Wurster, Bernardi & Emmons

William Wilson Wurster, born in California in 1895, earned his degree in architecture from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1919. After obtaining his license in 1922, he worked briefly in firms in Sacramento and New York, then opened the firm William W. Wurster in 1924. He gained national recognition early in his career with an award-winning design for the Gregory farmhouse (Scotts Valley, 1927), and became the most well-known modernist architect in the Bay Area.

Wurster's work, primarily residential during this time, was widely exhibited and published. The Colby house (Berkeley, 1931) and Voss house (Big Sur, 1931) were included in exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. At the same time, Wurster was developing friendships with landscape architects Lockwood deForest and Thomas Church. Though he worked with both men, his collaborative relationship with Church was particularly strong, and he designed a house for the landscape architect in 1931. During a 1937 trip to Europe, Wurster and Church met and befriended Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, who became an influence on both men's work.

In 1939, Wurster met the public housing and community planning expert Catherine Bauer, and the two were married the following year. At this point, the firm was involved in the design of numerous defense housing communities. Defense housing, administered initially by the Federal Works Agency and later by the National Housing Agency, was necessary to accommodate the manufacturing and production workers who had come to California to work in shipbuilding and aircraft industries. Often working with Church, Wurster completed defense housing projects that encompassed over 5,000 units in Vallejo alone.

In 1943, Wurster closed his firm so that he could study planning at Harvard. Both Yale and MIT invited him to teach, and by 1944 he had become Dean of Architecture at MIT, a post he held until 1950. Catherine Bauer Wurster taught planning at Harvard University during the same period. In 1944, Wurster formed a partnership with former employee Theodore Bernardi, and with the addition of Donn Emmons, also a former employee, in 1945, the firm became Wurster, Bernardi, and Emmons (WBE). During his years at MIT, Wurster spent only vacations in San Francisco and Bernardi and Emmons effectively ran the firm.

Bernardi earned his architecture degree at University of California, Berkeley in 1924, and obtained his license in 1933 after completing post-graduate work. He joined Wurster's firm in 1934, and within a few years became one of two chief draftsmen. He spent two years in independent practice before accepting Wurster's offer of partnership. Between 1954 and 1971 he served as a lecturer in the Department of Architecture at U.C. Berkeley.

Emmons joined Wurster's firm in 1938. Educated at Cornell University and the University of Southern California, Emmons spent four years in various architectural firms in Los Angeles before moving north to work with Wurster. He spent four years as a draftsman in Wurster's office before joining the Naval Reserves during World War II. Upon his release in 1945, he joined Wurster and Bernardi as a partner in the firm.

Wurster returned to the Bay Area in 1950 to become Dean of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, a position he held until his retirement in 1963. In 1959 he brought the departments of architecture, landscape architecture, and city and regional planning together to become the College of Environmental Design. WBE incorporated in 1963 and continued to produce award-winning designs, receiving the American Institute of Architects' Architectural Firm Award in 1965. All three partners had been named Fellows of the AIA by this time, and Wurster was later honored with the AIA Gold Medal Award for lifetime achievement in 1969.

After Wurster's death in 1973, the two younger partners continued running the firm until the mid-1980s. As of 1999, WBE continues to exist without the original partners.

Sources: Montgomery, Roger. "William Wilson Wurster and the College of Environmental Design," in Inside the Large Small House: The Residential Design Legacy of William W. Wurster. Berkeley: The Regents of the University of California, 1995. Peters, Richard C. "WWWurster." The Journal of Architectural Education. 33 (1979): 36-41 Treib, Marc, ed. An Everyday Modernism: The Houses of William Wurster. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.

From the guide to the William W. Wurster/Wurster, Bernardi & Emmons collection, 1922-1974, (Environmental Design Archives. College of Environmental Design.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Nagel, Charles, 1899-1992. Charles Nagel papers, ca. 1927-1992. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
referencedIn Serge Chermayeff architectural records and papers, 1909-1980, 1930s-1970s Columbia University. Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Department of Drawings & Archives,
creatorOf Fistere, John. John Fistere letter : New York, N.Y., to William Wurster, San Francisco, Calif. : TLS, 1958 Aug. 6. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Church, Thomas Dolliver. Thomas D. Church collection, 1933-1977. The California Digital Library
referencedIn Joint Advisory Committee on Planning and Development of the United Nations Headquarters Records, 1934-1948, (bulk 1946-1947) Columbia University. Avery Architecture and Fine Arts Library. Department of Drawings and Archives.
referencedIn Julius Shulman photography archive, 1935-2007 Getty Research Institute, Research Library
creatorOf Meyer, Howard R., 1903-1988. Howard R. Meyer papers, 1924-1986. University of Texas Libraries, University of Texas Libraries
creatorOf Wurster, Bernardi, and Emmons. William W. Wurster/Wurster, Bernardi & Emmons collection, 1922-1974. The California Digital Library
referencedIn Stanford University. Operations and Maintenance. Maps and Records. Stanford University, Operations and Maintenance, Maps and Records, architectural drawings, 1889-1994 [microform]. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Anderson, Lawrence B. (Lawrence Bernhart). Oral history interview with Lawrence Anderson 1992 Jan. 30-Mar. 30. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
creatorOf William W. Wurster/Wurster, Bernardi & Emmons collection, 1922-1974 Environmental Design Archives. College of Environmental Design.
referencedIn Thomas D. Church Collection, 1933-1977 Environmental Design Archives. College of Environmental Design. University of California, Berkeley. Berkeley, California
referencedIn Stanford University, Operations and Maintenance, maps and records, architectural drawings, 1889-1994 Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Monterey Public Library. California History Room. Libraries-Monterey Public Library-building program, 1938-52 clippings 1938-1952 Monterey Public Library
referencedIn Catalogue I of the Regional Oral History Office, 1954-1979 The Bancroft Library.
creatorOf Shulman, Julius. Julius Shulman photography archive. Getty Research Library
creatorOf Wurster, William Wilson. Correspondence to Paul Philippe Cret, 1937. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Chermayeff, Serge, 1900-1996. Serge Chermayeff architectural records and papers, 1909-1980. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
creatorOf Wurster, William Wilson. Artist file : miscellaneous uncataloged material. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas J. Watson Library
referencedIn Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Office of the President, records of Karl Taylor Compton and James Rhyne Killian, 1930-1959 Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Institute Archives and Special Collections
creatorOf Mies van der Rohe, Ludwig, 1886-1969. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe collection, 1929-1969. Aurora University, Phillips Library
referencedIn William Wilson Wurster : vertical file. Centre canadien d'architecture, | Canadian Centre for Architecture | CCA
creatorOf Joint Advisory Committee on Planning and Development of the United Nations Headquarters. Joint Advisory Committee on Planning and Development of the United Nations Headquarters Records, 1934-1948, (bulk 1946-1947). Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
creatorOf Wurster, William Wilson. College of Environmental Design, University of California, campus planning, and architectural practice : oral history transcript / William Wilson Wurster ; tape recorded interviews conducted by Suzanne B. Riess in April-August, 1963. Regional Cultural History Project, University of California, Berkeley, California, 1964 : and related material, 1963-1964. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Anderson, Lawrence B. (Lawrence Bernhart). Lawrence Anderson interviews, 1992 Jan. 30 - Mar. 30 [sound recording]. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
associatedWith Anderson, Lawrence B. (Lawrence Bernhart) person
associatedWith Bancroft Library. Regional Oral History Office corporateBody
associatedWith Bernardi, Theodore C., 1903-1990 person
associatedWith Bernardi, Thoedore C., 1903- person
associatedWith Chermayeff, Serge, 1900-1996. person
associatedWith Church, Thomas Dolliver. person
associatedWith Church, Thomas Dolliver, 1902-1978 person
associatedWith Emmons, Donn person
associatedWith Fistere, John. person
associatedWith Joint Advisory Committee on Planning and Development of the United Nations Headquarters. corporateBody
associatedWith Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Office of the President corporateBody
associatedWith Massachusetts Institute of Technology. School of Architecture and Planning. corporateBody
associatedWith Meyer, Howard R., 1903-1988. person
associatedWith Mies van der Rohe, Ludwig, 1886-1969. person
associatedWith Monterey Public Library. California History Room. corporateBody
associatedWith Nagel, Charles, 1899-1992. person
associatedWith Regional Cultural History Project (University of California, Berkeley) corporateBody
associatedWith Riess, Suzanne B. person
associatedWith Shulman, Julius person
associatedWith Shulman, Julius. person
associatedWith Stanford University. Operations and Maintenance. Maps and Records. corporateBody
associatedWith Sturtevant, Roger person
associatedWith United States corporateBody
associatedWith United States. National Capitol Park and Planning Commission. corporateBody
associatedWith University of California, Berkeley. College of Environmental Design. corporateBody
associatedWith Wood, Rebecca. person
associatedWith Wurster, Bernardi, and Emmons. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
California
Subject
Architecture
Architecture--California
Architecture--California--San Francisco Bay Area--20th century
Architects--California
Architectural firms--California
Architecture, Domestic--California--San Francisco Bay Area
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1895

Death 1973

Americans

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