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
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.