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With multiple projects under way at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), CO Architects is reviving work by pioneering Black architect Paul Revere Williams.

When the Los Angeles–based firm renovated the lobby of the 1959 La Kretz Botany Building, architects discovered Williams’s hand-drawn design for a never-installed mosaic with a leaf motif. “We had no information on what colors he wanted, or the type of glass tile,” explains designer Lois Lee. “That was our homework.” The team researched other Williams projects and even had lunch at his Beverly Hills Hotel, pulling color ideas from the banana-leaf wallpaper. From there, “I created a grid and laid out every ¾-inch tile, eyedropping different colors into each square to see what would look best,” says Lee.

La Kretz Botany Building.

A 285-square-foot mosaic in the lobby (top) of La Kretz Botany Building brought life to a never-executed scheme (above) by Paul Williams. Image courtesy CO Architects, click to enlarge.

A new bronze plaque near the mosaic explains Williams’s legacy, allowing passersby “to learn about a Black architect by just walking through the space,” says architect Rachel J. Bascombe, who is working on the renovation of another Williams building on campus. “In the SoCal chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects,” she adds, “we have a saying: ‘You can’t be what you can’t see.’ ” Making Williams’s work more accessible to a new generation illuminates an important part of California’s design history.

Video courtesy CO Architects