Aliamanu Valley Community

BW Aliamanu

The Aliamanu Valley Community in Honolulu was designed by Beverly Willis in 1978 for the US Army Corps of Engineers. This planned community was built in an inactive volcano crater. The design incorporated housing, a school, parks, and a central gathering place. There were four villages in the plan, each split into 2-3 neighborhoods. Each neighborhood had a rec center, as well as single unit and multi family housing. The population would be approximately 11,500 people, so adequate housing and schools were a must. The army told Willis they wanted the design to feel familiar to services members and their families who were from mainland United States. Willis succeeded in this plan where other architects failed, and managed to plan and design all 525 buildings in just 9 months.

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IRS Computer Center Prototype


Unfortunately this building was never built, but I found the design interesting so I chose to share it. Beverly Willis won the opportunity to design the first Computer Center building, in 1976.  At this point, computers were large and the IRS wanted something different than the typical large, boring, rectangular buildings that typically housed government offices. The IRS wanted a flexible design, that could be expanded as needed, so the design had to accommodate the removal of exterior walls. Willis and her firm designed an octagonal shaped building, with a hallway that could attach it to the older buildings on the IRS’s campus. The center of the octagon was initially designed as an open-air courtyard, but if the building expanded to hold additional floors then a dome over the courtyard could be added. The design also called for raising each floor about a foot from the slab to provide space for all the electric wires needed for a technological building. Removable floor panels were to be installed to provide easy access to said wires.

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Robertson Residence

BW Robertson

In 1960, Beverly Willis designed a home for the Robertson family in Napa Valley, CA. The Robertsons needed a disability accessible home, and requested a ranch style layout. Willis utilized an open floor plan, making it easier for someone in a wheelchair to move about. She designed a high, peaked ceiling and a large fireplace, so that the home would feel open and inviting. Unfortunately things like handicapped accessible bathrooms were not being manufactured at this time, so Willis did the best she could with the situation. She lowered light switches and door latches to put them within reach of someone in a wheelchair.

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Union Street Stores

BW Union

In 1965, Beverly Willis converted historic residences into shops on San Francisco’s Union Street. These historic homes had crumbling foundations, so she raised the level of the homes and restored the foundation. She then added a new floor, on the foundation, just below street level. She extended the porches of the homes and added a staircase to join the three buildings. Willis’ respect for and skill at historic renovation turned this project into a bustling center of shops and restaurants.

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Manhattan Village Academy

BW ManVillAcad


The Manhattan Village Academy, which was built in the mid 1990’s, was created as part of New York City’s attempt to incorporate small schools in the district. The school rented three floors of an existing building for the school. Beverly Willis, the architect, designed a “locus plan” for the classrooms, grouping each grade level together with 3-4 classrooms and a common area. Just inside the entrance, she designed marble steps in the style of a Greek temple, and a spiral staircase . Her design makes use of glass walls that look over common areas so that students are fully supervised.

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San Francisco Ballet Building

BW SFBallet

The San Francisco Ballet Building is Beverly Willis’ most famous building. Willis extensively researched the needs of ballet dancers when she designed this building. In Willis’ design, the mirrors are tilted in the studios so that dancers can see their complete reflection, even during lifts. There are 8 rehearsal and classroom studios, all built with high ceilings, so the dancers have adequate space to rehearse. There are also offices for administrative staff as well as a library and conference space designed to accommodate the study of choreography. Willis also thoughtfully included space for physical therapy, exercise space, and locker rooms. Due to the building’s location, Willis worked with the San Francisco City Planning Department to ensure the design fit the Neo-Renaissance design of other buildings in the area.

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If you look at the tall and grand buildings built across history, it has always been those with the money and power to accomplish the structures that managed to create them. You can walk through history and see where perhaps emporers built huge places for their own burial, and then churches and city states, and now that we are in the modern age, the tall and grand buildings are being built by todays powerful. In this particular case Cesar Pelli designed designed these toweres for Petronas Oil, a state owned oil and gas company. These buildings were the tallest in the world for a time. There are many architectural features that were intended to tie into the Muslim faith of the region. Perhaps it resonates better with people there, and perhaps I am immediately critical of anything oil companies do, but I find them gaudy.

Finlandia Hall (Helsinki, Finland: 1971)



This will be the first of 6 posts covering my favorite architectural works by the critically acclaimed Alvar Aalto.

The first building i chose is Finlandia Hall; a concert hall placed on the coast near the sea.  It is the centerpiece of the Finnish capital.  It was engineered by Alvar to improve acoustic noise within the walls.  He did this by using a very high, pronounced roof.  The outside is made of white marble and black granite!

I’m very happy that I got Alvar.  I would have loved to have gotten Frank Lloyd Wright but I was exposed to a lot of his work when I was preparing for the team project.  Therefore It’s great to see another architects work which falls into the same modern theme.   I would even go so far as to say that some of Alvar’s work goes hand and hand with Frank’s.

Barcelona Pavilion


The Barcelona Pavilion was constructed to accommodate the formal meetings of the King of Spain, including the 1929 Barcelona International Convention. The structure utilizes only three essential materials: glass, steel, and marble. After serving its purpose, the pavilion was deconstructed, but its popularity forced it to be built again at the original sight. The Barcelona Pavilion is another prominent example of Van Der Rohe’s Modernistic style.

The Farnsworth House

The Farnsworth House

The Farnsworth House, located southwest of Chicago, Illinois, is a classic work of Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe’s. It beautifully represents naked-structure style he is known for. Large steel beems separate two concrete slabs in wide-open one room suite. Van Der Rohe stressed open spaces and minimal material. This ideal is even held in the commodities of the house. Only a heating coil within the floor heats the house, and ventilation design and the shade of a tree are all that cool it. The Farnsworth House may not be the most comfortable place to live, but it is an aesthetic piece of architecture.