The Architect

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William Leonard Pereira, the genius behind the architectural design of the Harris Fine Arts Center, was born in 1909 in Chicago, Illinois. After graduating from the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois, he kicked off his professional career, emphasizing his architecture with a “futuristic” style. In one of his first creations, William, along with his brother Hal, designed the Esquire Theater in Chicago, which is still considered one of the best Art Deco examples in Chicago.

He moved to Los Angeles with his brother in the 1930s, and was quickly hired to build the first buildings for the Motion Picture Relief Fund in Woodland Hills, California, which was dedicated in 1942. In the 1940s, William was a Hollywood art director for a short time, sharing an Academy Award for Best Special Effects for the film Reap the Wild Wind (1942), and was art director for several other films.

Following his brief career as an art director, his firm William L. Pereira & Associates quickly became one of the most well respected architecture companies in the country. Some of his most notable creations were:

  • Pepperdine University at Malibu
  • Robinson’s department stores throughout California (1951)
  • CBS Television City, Los Angeles (1953)
  • Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport (1958)
  • Master plans for cities: Irvine, California (1963), and Newport Beach, California.
  • Disneyland Hotel (1958) and Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel at Disneyland, Anaheim, California (1965)
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1965)
  • Harris Fine Arts Center at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah (1965)
  • Geisel Library at the University of California (1970)
  • Transamerica Pyramid, San Francisco (1972)

Pereira was noted for his unique elements in his architecture, particularly his use of cement, pyramids, and ziggurats. Many of his buildings also have the appearance of being situated on top of a pedestal, and others also have a variation of a water feature. His teaching career at the University of Southern California also produced several noteworthy architects, including Gin Wong, William Blurock, and Frank Gerhy.

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