Frames for Living: The Work of William Wurster

William W. Wruster (1875-1973) was a pioneer of twentieth century modernist architecture and one of the most influential architectural educators of the twentieth century. Born in Stockton, California, he had a decisive impact on modernist architecture in Northern California, designing restrained and often modest buildings that were harmonious with their site conditions and used regional materials and ways of building.

After studying architecture at the University of California at Berkeley, Wurster established a nationally-recognized practice in San Francisco in the 1930s. In 1943 he received a fellowship in urban planning at Harvard, and the following year he was appointed Dean of Architecture at MIT (1944-50). At MIT his curriculum integrated architectural design with landscape design and engineering, and established urban planning as a separate but allied discipline. As dean, he championed Alvar Aalto’s Baker House for the MIT campus and hired the Bauhaus-inspired artist Gyorgy Kepes to teach visual design.

Wurster returned to California in 1950 to resume a leadership role in his firm Wurster Bernardi and Emmons and to become head of the school of architecture at the University of California at Berkley. In 1959 he merged the schools of architecture, landscape design and urban planning and became Dean of the renamed College of Environmental Design until his retirement in 1963.

Frames for Living: The Work of William Wurster examines the innovative houses that are often regarded as Wurster’s greatest accomplishment as a designer. Appropriate to the California landscape and climate, his houses captured living space from the outdoors and featured high ceilings and over-scaled windows that belied their small size. Local materials were chosen for ease of maintenance and low cost, and floor plans suggested multiple uses to maximize the site.