Featured Architect: Welton Becket

Welton David Becket (8 August 1902 - 16 January 1969) was a Los Angeles-based architect who designed many notable public, governmental, and commercial buildings, including notable retail outlets in Palm Springs.

Becket was born in Seattle, Washington and graduated from the University of Washington program in Architecture in 1927 with a Bachelor of Architecture degree. He moved to Los Angeles in 1933, and formed a partnership with his University of Washington classmate Walter Wurdeman and Los Angeles architect Charles F. Plummer. Their first major commission was the Pan-Pacific Auditorium in 1935, which won them residential jobs from James Cagney, Robert Montgomery, and other film celebrities. Plummer died in 1939.

The successor firm Wurdeman and Becket went on to design Bullock's Pasadena (1944) and a couple of corporate headquarters. Wurdeman and Becket developed the concept of "total design," whereby their firm would be responsible for master planning, engineering, interiors, furniture, fixtures, landscaping, signage, and even (in the case of restaurants) menus, silverware, matchbooks, and napkins.

After Wurdeman's death in 1949, Becket formed Welton Becket and Associates and continued to grow the firm to the extent that it was one of the largest architectural offices in the world by the time of his death in 1969. In 1987, his firm was acquired by Ellerbe Associates, and the merged firm continued as Ellerbe Becket until the end of 2009, when it was acquired by AECOM. It is now known as Ellerbe Becket, an AECOM Company.

Becket's buildings used unusual facade materials such as ceramic tile and stainless steel grillwork, repetitive geometric patterns, and a heavy emphasis on walls clad in natural stone, particularly travertine and flagstone.

With The Walt Disney Company and the United States Steel Corporation, Becket's firm co-designed Disney's Contemporary Resort, which opened in 1971 at Walt Disney World. The Contemporary was designed as a 14-story steel A-frame with a monorail running through the building. Modular guest rooms were assembled, finished, furnished, fully equipped and their doors locked, on the ground, then lifted by crane and inserted into the frame. This sometimes took multiple tries.

Welton Becket was elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1952.

Becket's sons, Welton MacDonald Becket and Bruce David Becket, are also practicing architects.

A partial list of Welton Becket's extensive list of credits includes:

  • Pan-Pacific Auditorium, Los Angeles, California 1935 (with Walter Wurdeman)

  • General Petroleum Building, Los Angeles, California 1949 (with Walter Wurdeman)

  • Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, California 1953

  • UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, California 1953

  • Parker Center (formerly the Police Administration Building), Los Angeles, California 1955

  • Capitol Records Building, Los Angeles, California 1956

  • Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, California 1958

  • Sheraton Dallas Hotel (formerly Adams Mark Dallas and Southland Center), Dallas, Texas 1959

  • 100 California Street, San Francisco, California 1960

  • Kaiser Center, Oakland, California 1960

  • Christown Mall, Phoenix Arizona, 1961

  • Walt Whitman Shops, Huntington Station, New York, 1962

  • U.S. Embassy, Warsaw, Poland, 1963

  • Cinerama Dome, Los Angeles, California 1963

  • Century City (masterplan), Los Angeles, California 1963

  • Gateway West Building, Century City, Los Angeles, California 1963

  • Hartford National Bank, Hartford, Connecticut 1963

  • McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas, Nevada 1963

  • Phillips Petroleum Building, Bartlesville, Oklahoma 1964

  • Federal Building, Los Angeles, California 1964

  • Los Angeles Music Center (Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County), 1964

  • General Electric Pavilion (destroyed), New York City, 1964

  • Pauley Pavilion at UCLA (Edwin W. Pauley Pavilion), Los Angeles, California 1965

  • Gulf Life Tower (now known as the Riverplace Tower), Jacksonville, Florida, 1967

  • Xerox Tower, Rochester, New York, 1967

  • City Hall, Pomona, California 1969

  • Equitable Life Building, Los Angeles, 1969

  • 800 Wilshire, Los Angeles, 1970

  • PNC Plaza (formerly the Citizens Fidelity Plaza), Louisville, Kentucky 1971

  • Disney's Contemporary Resort, Lake Buena Vista, Florida 1971

  • Worcester Center, Worcester, Massachusetts, 1971

  • Chase Tower (formerly the Bank One Center and Valley Bank Center), Phoenix, Arizona 1972

  • Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, East Garden City, New York, 1972

  • Regions Center (formerly the AmSouth Center, AmSouth-Sonat Tower, and First National-Southern National Building), Birmingham, Alabama 1972

  • Glendale Central Library, Glendale, California 1973

  • 100 Summer Street, Boston, Massachusetts 1974

  • Reunion Tower, Dallas, Texas 1978

  • One Market Plaza, San Francisco, 1972

  • Orange Civic Center, Orange, California 1963

  • Park Plaza Mall (now City Center), Oshkosh, Wisconsion, 1970

  • Interiors of the new Los Angeles International Airport, 1962

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