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PRESIDENT'S LETTER

 

Special Collections

I recently had the good fortune to visit Special Collections at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to do some research for a project in Palm Springs. Cal Poly is home to two collections of drawings by architect William F. Cody, FAIA (1916-1978).

Cody is probably best known for his work in desert communities, including Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, and Palm Desert. However, Cody also designed projects around other areas of Southern California, as well as in Phoenix, Mexico, and Cuba. Cody’s Modernist aesthetic was applied to hundreds of residences and numerous country clubs, hotels, libraries, and churches.

In addition to his own projects, the archive contains a few designs by the young architect during his tenure in Cliff May’s office in the 1930s. May’s influence can be seen not only in the development of Cody’s architectural ideas, but also in his vision of himself as an architectural brand—creating a May-esque logo and signature block for his early projects. According to authors Alan Hess and Andrew Danish in Palm Springs Weekend: The Architecture and Design of a Midcentury Oasis (Chronicle Books, 2001), Cody was initially confused and angered by Modernism, and his designs echo a care for warmth and lifestyle, rather than those of overriding theoretical purity.

The two collections are also rich and robust from an imagery standpoint; just a few hours of looking at a few selected projects revealed the presence of many lovely large-scale renderings. Sketches abound, along with notebooks and other materials that provide keen insight into how the architect worked. Such materials are rich with possibility for scholarship and publication.

I was surprised to learn from the librarians at the archive that the Cody collections have not yet been the subject of deep study. Anyone in search of a meaty and meaningful research project would do well to delve further into the work of Bill Cody. The two collections each have their own finding aids at the Online Archive of California. Increased awareness and understanding of the work of this important architect is a noble pursuit.


Sian Winship

 
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