Paul R. Williams (1894–1980) was the first certified African-American architect in the western United States and the first black member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Beginning his career as a designer of affordable homes in southern California during the 1920s, Williams, by the end of that practice, had designed some of Hollywood’s most iconic homes, as well as some of the most recognizable public and municipal buildings in the United States. Williams’ accolades continue to grow posthumously: in 2017, the architect was awarded an AIA Gold Medal, celebrating his lasting influence and legacy.

Janna Ireland has been documenting Williams’ buildings since 2016. The photographer’s There is Only One Paul R. Williams is a photo series that began with the architect’s primary stomping grounds: Los Angeles, where his impeccably designed Beverly Hills homes (built for such notables as Frank Sinatra) speak to the sunny modernism of mid- century California, and his public buildings (including the space-age Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport) are monuments to the patriotic optimism of the postwar American west. For ART PAPERS, Ireland extends this series to Williams’ work in Las Vegas, where she traveled to photograph the Guardian Angel Cathedral, a modestly ashy modernist A-frame church just north of the Vegas Strip, built by (Jewish) casino boss Moe Dalitz to conveniently serve his Catholic employees. As Ireland investigated Williams’ Vegas footprint, her trip grew to incorporate his residential and commercial buildings—including his 1961 La Concha Motel, a well-preserved shrine to Googie architecture whose domed lobby and sweeping four-cornered arches now serve as the entrance to the city’s popular Neon Museum. Williams’ pristine interiors and clean lines are perhaps at odds with the bravado traditionally associated with Vegas architecture. Ireland’s approach to these modernist geometries provides evidence that these buildings are likely to have informed the architectural identity of the city to locals in permanent and more pertinent ways than the changing façades of the Strip.

Black and white photo of one-story house with trees and rock garden in front.