Summary, Beverly Willis’s Activities 1954-2017

For over 63 years, Beverly Willis played a major role in the development of many creative and professional concepts important to American cities and architecture.

Established the Willis Atelier upon graduation from the University of Hawaii to continue the fresco and mural painting began during college (see Art Work Portfolio)
When she first opened her office in San Francisco, she advocated the idea that good design “sells” and was one of the first architects to send out direct mail pamphlets showing her designs. Retail stores were among her first clients.
Union Street Stores design was awarded an American Institute of Architecture San Francisco design award and an Award of Exceptional Distinction from the Governor of California. This project, coupled with the adaptive re-use building design of what is now known as Jackson Square, and with Ghiradelli Square designed by William Wurster and the Cannery design by Joseph Esherick, rekindled a Post WWII interest in the US that sparked a movement to preserve and re-adapt the nation’s historical buildings.
Named one of San Francisco’s Ten Most Outstanding Citizens of the Year by the San Francisco Examiner newspaper for her efforts in protecting Golden Gate Park from development.
Developed a systematic approach to evaluating the environmental, social and economic impacts of large-scale residential developments to enable local California government officials to comply with the requirements of the 1969 Environmental Protection Act.
One of the first three firms to develop computer software for architectural use. Beverly Willis Architects, developed CARLA (Computerized Approach to Residential Land Analysis), and applied the computer software written in-house to large-scale townhouses and low-rise apartment developments covering multiple acres. In Honolulu, the program was used to plan, engineer and design Aliamanu Valley community that housed 11,500 people in 525 buildings. Skidmore, Owing and Merrill and Perry Dean and Stewart were the others actively involved in developing software.
For 3 years chaired (the first woman) the Federal Construction Council of the National Academy of Science, Washington, DC. Council members are directors of all construction departments within the Federal government. Council oversaw the development of joint agency cooperation on a variety of programs, such as ones to avoid costly duplication of government expenditure, like overlapping computer programs and construction specifications.
One of two architects chosen to represent the United States on the US Delegation to the United Nations’ Habitat One, Vancouver, Canada. Delegation led by Carla Hills and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
Joined Architecture Critic Wolf von Eckhardt, Washington Post; Architect Clothiel Woodward Smith; Smithsonian Architecture Historian, Cynthia Fields, Smithsonian Museum; and attorney Herbert Franklin, to create the National Building Museum, Washington, DC. This action required the passage of two bills through Congress, one for its authorization, the second for funding.
Helped organize the first chapter in the west of what is now the International Women’s Forum with chapters in 22 cities around the world.
During a national energy crisis, researched and assembled one of the first energy conservation manuals for the use by the architects and engineers for the San Francisco Airport building construction, resulting in a 40% savings in energy consumption.
As elected President of the American Institute of Architects California Council (CCAIA) (first woman), began California’s first design conference, completed the legal and administrative documents for the CCAIA Foundation, PAC (Political Action committee) and magazine Architecture California.
Organized the Design-Build Partnership of Olympia York-Marriott Hotels-Beverly Willis that won an international competition to provide the conceptual plan and design for Yerba Buena Gardens, 24 acres in downtown San Francisco, at that time one of the three largest developments in the world.
Elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.
Judge, selected and designated awards of the wining floats, Pasadena Tournament of Roses.
Elected President (first woman) of the Golden Gate Chapter, Lambda Alpha International – an Honorary Land Economics Society.
Received Honorary Doctorate degree in Fine Arts from Mt. Holyoke College.
Completed the architectural design for San Francisco Ballet Association Building in San Francisco’s Civic Center, the nation’s first newly constructed building built exclusively for use of a single dance company.
Founded the Architecture Research Institute, New York, a 501c3 non-profit, think/act tank, to study the impact of cultural and social of the digital information age on building and urban spaces. Presented research on cities in meetings and presentations in Hong Kong, Bangkok, Oxford, Israel, Rotterdam, Singapore, India, Berlin, Barcelona, Vancouver.
With MacArthur prize winner educator Deborah Meiers’ leadership, designed the first customized small school floor plan for use of the Center for Collaborative Education’s reform pedagogy and used the plan to design Manhattan Village Academy High School, New York.
Author, Invisible Images-the Silent Language of Architecture, published by the National Building Museum, a book about creative transformation that includes selected works of Beverly Willis and a short biography by critic Nicolai Ouroussoff.
Representing the US, assisted in the organization of a one-year, 100 days, International Women’s University (900 students from 112 countries) funded by Germany
Germany’s World Exposition EXPO 2000, the first international Women’s University (IFU). Taught Architecture studio during the summer in Kassel, Germany. Students came from 115 countries.
Day after the World Trade Center (WTC) bombing on 9/11 together with Susan Szenasy, Editor of Metropolis Magazine, formed a Lower Manhattan citizens organization named Rebuild Downtown Our Town (a program of the Architectural Research Institute).
Received documentation from the IRS to create the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation, a non-profit private foundation, focused on documenting the historical knowledge of women’s contributions to the built environment.
Awarded the Lawrence M. Orton Award for Leadership in City and Regional Planning by the NY Metro American Planning Association.
Guest of the French government to learn about the working of its government.
Published chapter in book City and Gender – International discourse on Gender, Urbanish and Architecture titled Towards a Sustainable City, published by Leske+Budrich, Germany, p. 191
Begins organization and programs of the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation (BWAF) with founding trustees
Wanda Bubriski is named founding Executive Director of Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation and developed BWAF’s first programs and made grants.
Makes the documentary A Girl is a Fellow Here: 100 Women in the Studio of Frank Lloyd Wright that traveled internationally
Applied to IRS to change BWAF status from a Private Charity to a Public Charity in order to seek and receive donations.
Produces the documentary Built for Ballet: An American Original
Makes two documentaries, The Artist Beverly Willis and The Architect Beverly Willis, and releases them on a single disc along with Built for Ballet: An American Original.
Spoke on behalf of Julia Morgan (1872-1957), when she received the AIA Gold Medal, its highest honor, and the first woman to receive the Gold Medal, at the AIA national conference in Chicago
Award AIANY Special Citation for significant contribution to the recognition and understanding of 20th Century women architects: Commending their strength of leadership and clarity of voice, and support their ongoing effort to fund and initiate research and outreach. We acknowledge their invaluable effort and commitment to creating a place for discourse, connecting in a continuum of practice those forerunners of the 20th Century with contemporary practitioners today in architecture, design, engineering, real estate and construction.
Finalizes the agreement to send the Beverly Willis Photographic Material Collection to the Library of Congress, for permanent archival storage, assisted by Kelly Hill.
Featured in the Princeton Architecture Press’s release 20 Over 80 – Conversations on a Lifetime in Architecture and Design, “experiences of design’s most influential figures” which led to speaking engagements at the Guggenheim Museum on the “Consequences of Design,” as well as the famed 92nd Street Y on the topic of the book.
Speaks at the National Building Museum in Washington D.C. Topic: “Architects Across Generations”
Produces the documentary film Unknown New York – The City That Women Built
Received “Lifetime Achievements Award” from the American Institute of Architects California Council
Received Visionary Award from the American Institute of Architects