Walter S. White: Inventions in Midcentury Architecture

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Portrait of Walter S. White, ca. 1984 Unknown Photographer, Black And White Print 7 ¼ X 9 ½” Image, 7 ¾ X 9 ½” Mount From The Walter S. White Papers Art, Design, & Architecture Museum, Uc Santa Barbara © Courtesy of Art, Design & Architecture Museum
Walter S. White: Inventions in Midcentury Architecture

University of California
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-7130
September 12th, 2015 - December 6th, 2015
Opening: September 25th, 2015 5:30 PM - 7:30 PM

santa barbara
Wednesday–Sunday noon–5 pm


The Art, Design & Architecture Museum, UC Santa Barbara is pleased to present the first exhibition to examine the work of an ingenious inventor, builder, and architect, Walter S. White (1919–2002). 

White’s designs for the Coachella Valley desert cities of Palm Desert, Indio, La Quinta, and Palm Springs in the 1940s and 1950s addressed the extreme climate with thrilling, expressionistic forms that took inspiration from the natural landscape, while proposing new, ecologically sensitive, and inexpensive construction methods. White’s inventive roof designs—he received a patent for his All Steel Hypar roof and wood roof construction methods—make his desert projects especially distinctive. His roofs swoop and curve to match the forms of the mountains in the distance, while providing protection for their inhabitants. 

White believed that good architecture was for everyone. His inventive series of simple, do-it-yourself cottages and cabins were widely published as low cost houses and vacation cabins.  Sears & Roebuck Company promoted one of White’s cabin models, which could be assembled by the owner with a small, moderately skilled crew of people and outfitted with furnishings from Sears. 

Beginning in the 1960s White designed for the high plateau and mountains of Colorado Springs, where he built private residences for the Kissing Camels Estate, among other projects. He also established a reputation for his passive solar energy designs. Continuing his innovative designs with nature, White created a solar window wall (for which he received another patent) to capture the warmth and light of the sun in winter, and keep buildings cool in summer. Curated by Professor Volker Welter, History of Art and Architecture.

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