The Architecture and Design Collection (ADC) was founded in 1963 by Professor David Gebhard, who was hired to be Director of the university Art Gallery and as faculty in the Art History department. Gebhard (1927-1996) was an architect, architectural historian, and avid collector of architecture and design. After receiving his PhD in architectural history from the University of Minnesota, Gebhard was a curator at the University of New Mexico art gallery, and then Director of the Roswell (NM) Museum and Art Center. He began the ADC (then called the Architectural Drawing Collection) in 1963 to collect, preserve, and display architectural drawings, renderings, photographs, models, and furniture.
Gebhard worked directly with architects and their families to acquire materials; at the time, many architects thought of their drawings, especially the working drawings, as simple construction documents, not as items worthy of archival preservation and display in a museum. Through his work co-authoring (with Occidental College Professor Robert Winter) the book Architecture in Los Angeles: A Complete Guide, Gebhard was in correspondence with many of the leading architects of the mid-twentieth century. This personal connection gave him the opportunity to forge long-lasting personal relationships with architects and their heirs.
One of the first, and the most important collection in the ADC, is the Rudolph M. Schindler collection. Acquired in 1967, the collection spans the career of the famous modernist: from his beginnings studying in Europe, to his move to Chicago in 1914, and his work with Frank Lloyd Wright—who sent Schindler to Los Angeles to work on the Hollyhock house in 1920. Schindler built his modern masterpiece, his personal home, in 1921 at 835 Kings Road in Los Angeles, and stayed there until his death in 1953. Schindler was able to keep the vast majority of his personal and professional records in one place, until his ex-wife and son donated the materials to the ADC in 1967. This collection is the cornerstone for the development of the archive and the Museum. In the following few years, the ADC added the noted early modernist from San Diego, Irving Gill; the architect of the first Case Study House, J.R. Davidson; and interior designer, furniture designer, and architect of the Walt Disney Studio building and interiors in Burbank, Kem Weber.
In 1977 the museum changed its name to the University Art Museum. The rapid pace of collecting continued throughout the 1970s, adding the archives of Carleton Winslow, Roland Coate, Gregory Ain, Myron Hunt, John Byers, and Edla Muir. These collections were either acquired directly from the architects themselves, or from their widows and children. In some instances, it was the mentees and employees of the architects who donated their materials upon the architects deaths. This was the case for Edla Muir, who donated her archival materials and the collection of John Byers, her mentor and former boss. Additionally, in 1979, Lutah Maria Riggs donated her extensive archive, as well as the George Washington Smith papers (Smith was Riggs’ mentor and supervisor). Both Smith and Riggs were well known in the Santa Barbara area for defining the Spanish Colonial architectural style of the city. During this time the ADC collected many other local architects including Francis Underhill, Keith Lockard, James Osborne Craig, and the firm Soule, Murphy, and Hastings. This deep roster of local architects was both spurred by and enabled by Gebhard’s involvement with many local architectural groups, the city’s Architectural Board of Review, and other zoning and planning initiatives.
In 1981, Gebhard stepped down as Director of the Museum, but remained curator of the ADC and had a staff of graduate student assistants who performed many tasks, including authoring the first catalog of collections in 1983. The collection continued to grow throughout the 1980s, adding Thornton Abell, Cliff May, Albert Frey, John Elgin Woolf, Smith & Williams, as well as some less well-known architects and designers such as Palmer Sabin, Lucile Lloyd, and Rowland Crawford. Additionally, the collections of local architects such as Robert Ingle Hoyt, Richard Pitman, and Roy C. Wilson also arrived in the ADC during this time.
While the ADC has always been a part of the Museum, the physical locations for both have changed throughout the years. Offices and archival storage areas moved around in different wings of the Arts Building over time. Then in the early 1980s, there was a competition to design a new stand-alone art museum but funding for the new building did not materialize. While the Museum remained in the Art building, new additional storage locations were added throughout the campus as the collection continued to grow.