Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Finding Aid for the Max and Rita Lawrence Architectural Pottery Records, ca. 1950-1994
View entire collection guide What's This?
PDF (112.87 Kb) HTML
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Organization and Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Max and Rita Lawrence Architectural Pottery Records,
    Date (inclusive): ca. 1950-1994
    Collection number: 1587
    Creator: Architectural Pottery (Firm: Los Angeles, Calif.)
    Extent: 11 boxes (5.5 linear ft.) and 3 oversize boxes
    Repository: University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Department of Special Collections.
    Los Angeles, California 90095-1575
    Abstract: Rita and Max Lawrence began the firm Architectural Pottery (1950) to produce and market the pottery container designs of students of LaGardo Tackett, professor at California School of Art. In 1971, the company name was changed to Group Artec and began producing office furniture, public seating, tile, kiosks, modern dinner ware, and building directories (signage). The collection consists of records of the firm Architectural Pottery/Group Artec and includes correspondence, publicity materials, photographic slides and scrapbooks.
    Physical location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact the UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Restrictions on Use and Reproduction

    Copyright has not been assigned to the Department of Special Collections, UCLA. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Manuscripts Librarian. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Department of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

    Restrictions on Access

    COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF: Open for research. Advance notice required for access. Contact the UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.

    Provenance/Source of Acquisition

    Gift of Rita and Max Lawrence, 1988 and 1994.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Max and Rita Lawrence Architectural Pottery Records (Collection 1587). Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.


    Almost a lifetime resident of Los Angeles, Rita Milaw Lawrence was graduated from UCLA in 1940 (political science snd sociology). Earlier that year she was married to Max Lawrence, a New Yorker she met after he moved to Los Angeles following his graduation from City College of New York; in 1950 they began the firm Architectural Pottery to produce and market the pottery container designs of students of LaGardo Tackett, professor at California School of Art; began issuing catalogs in September 1950 featuring products for the new modern postwar styles of architecture, using new design materials, such as fiberglass; the firm had three locations in Los Angeles; subdivisions subsequently added included Architectural Fiberglass (1961), Pro-Artisan (1966), Arcon (1971), Architectural Ceramic Surfaces (1972), and Graphic structures (probably, 1972); in 1971, the company name was changed to Group Artec; the company produced varied products such as office furniture, public seating, tile, kiosks, modern dinner ware, and building directories (signage).

    Biographical Narrative

    In 1972 when architect A. Quincy Jones responded to a query from the Los Angeles Times for a statement about Architectural Pottery, he may also have encapsulated the essence of the manufacturing business established by Rita and Max Lawrence in 1950, as well as the thrust of those times in terms of design influence. In 1950, Los Angeles thrived in a climate of exuberance and what seems now to have been a boundless wellspring of creative energy that spawned a number of new design firms and manufacturers whose products influenced design attitudes, internationally, within the decade. Echoes of that time resound with renewed vibrations today in the questioning minds of researchers who seek to know how it all happened.
    Looking back, from 1972 to 1950, Jones wrote, As manufacturers, Max and Rita Lawrence are more than patrons of good design. As 'resonators,' they bring together the designer and manufacturer, a role difficult to undertake, and understood by few, because it involves a commitment to the purpose of producing good design. Their belief in the integrity of the artist and the importance of using modern materials and methods to the best advantage has lead to the production of objects recognized the world over for their quality of design. And, I add, the repetitiveness of a well-designed object in no way decreases its value. The good thing about good design is that it does not involve contortions that result in strange attempts to exhibit originality.
    Today, the first post World War 2 decade, 1945-1955, is revealing itself as the seminal period in which the specialness of the design contribution for the latter half of the century came to fruition. The cleavage between pre-war and post-war extended from 1938, when the war of devastation began in Europe (if not earlier). During this period the nation's efforts were channeled to the defense effort. Those with design skills, whether architects, artists, landscape planners or others, made technical drawings for aircraft factories, designed camouflage to conceal industries against enemy attack or were employed elsewhere in a time when domestic architecture and design endeavors were shelved for the duration.
    This was the decade then, 1945-1955, for the start of a new way of thinking. New technology from the war years, new attitudes and social upheaval (still reverberating nearly half a century later) informed and shaped the special, particular, far-reaching design attitude that emerged. The old rule book did not work. It was up to new thinkers to put the new pieces together.
    Architectural Pottery seemed to soar from the beginning, receiving recognition as early as the Museum of Modern Art (New York) 1951 Good Design Exhibition that included most of the designs in the firm's original small catalog. Displayed at museums and galleries, published extensively, with high visibility in designers' installations, the young company continued to receive awards of local, national, and international distinction.
    Part of the richness of this collection is in the revelation of the designer-user-producer triumvirate that ultimately makes possible the products of designers whose work is manufactured for wide distribution. The balance is precarious. It takes finesse and incessant dedication to nurture each detail in the process until it becomes an integral element of the total picture. This collection may be a textbook example of how such a relationship is developed and honed. The visual and written messages of catalogs, brochures, advertisements, plus the internal and external correspondence, speak in behalf of the firm with integrity and consistency. The implied voice that underlies these communications establishes, throughout the role of the company as resonator as well as manufacturer in this diagrammatic triangle of designer-user-producer.
    As a trail-blazer in the industry, the Lawrences pioneered production of large scale fiberglass reinforced plastic planters in 1961. Increasing demand for planters larger than could be made of clay lead Architectural Pottery to expand and invent their way into using this new material, not yet adapted in their product field. In time, besides the large planters, they produced an extended line of lounge furniture for indoor-outdoor use.
    In 1965, Rita Lawrence wrote to an editor assembling material on 20th Century classics, Architectural Pottery was originated to make a statement about today's way of life, not to imitate or adapt the past. The forms we have introduced have become symbols of their era; the forms we will do in the future will be different, as we perceive new requirements and a new architectural idiom. To be truly contemporary in design implies constant movement and evolution. We are very proud of our laurels, but they represent milestones, not resting places. She continued to say, Southern California then (1950) was exploring a way of making living space of the outdoors ---a way of life that has since been adopted nationally and even internationally. Architectural Pottery provided a portable landscape and a focal point in garden plantings, then carried the motif into the home and office.
    A key to the vitality of the approximate 25 years of their business is seen in the willingness of the Lawrences to carve new niches in a market they already knew and served well. In the 1970s, in newly created divisions, their product lines introduced a public seating system to provide one-piece unitized, massive seating arrangements for large public areas, floor and wall tiles, an office furniture system to accommodate new kinds of work place interiors responsive to electronic and computer needs, and a system of graphic structures and signage.
    In the 1970s, the careful, finely tuned designs of Architectural Pottery and its sibling companies were gathered under the overall company name of Group Artec. In the 1990s, museums and art galleries continue to request loans of their clay pots, fiberglass planters, street furniture and other pieces that serve as icons for the memory of the period that made possible these design indicators.
    A continued study of that decade, 1945-1955, enhances its value for understanding the linkage of those years and the design attitude that prevailed and defined the way of life in post-war California, especially. The microscopic view of a part of the history leads to the facets of the social and cultural references that relate to other lateral signals that together inform the larger picture in history.
    Part of the story is likely to be found in this collection. The Lawrences, among others, were there. Their design attitude was intrinsic to the times.
    By Elaine K. Sewell Jones

    A Chronology of ARCHITECTURAL POTTERY (Firm: Los Angeles, California, Max and Rita Lawrence)

    By Rita Lawrence
    Date Event
    1950 September Formation of Architectural Pottery, a company to produce and distribute large-scaled ceramic planters of contemporary design ---the culmination of a class project in the California School of Art.
    1951 Museum of Modern Art's Good Design Award given to all designs in the original Architectural Pottery presentation catalog.
    1953 Introduction of Sand Urns as a product category and the addition of a wide range of new designs, including the Trail Blazer awarded Hour Glass design by LaGardo Tackett, who had been the teacher of the original California School of Art class.
    1959 Presentation of cylinders of diverse diameter and height, in a wide range of glazes. Numerous other designs added to accomodate needs of small and large plants.
    1961 Formation of Architectural Fiberglass as a division of the original company, and presentation of geometric designs by John Follis in planters larger than could be made in clay. These, and other designs added later, became the recipients of numerous design awards.
    1963 Addition of new product category of fiberglass trash receptacles and planter benches.
    1964 Nomination for Industrial Arts Medal by Los Angeles and San Diego chapters of the American Institute of Architects.
    1967 Expansion of products in clay to include more hand-crafted detail and another clay body and the establishment of the Pro/Artisan Studio within Architectural Pottery, under the guidance of David Cressey.
    1967 A broadening of designs from Architectural Fiberglass to widen the Street Furniture offerings. Introduction of more sculptural designs in fiberglass benches and seating by Douglas Deeds and Elsie Crawford.
    1968 Licensing of designs for manufacture in Western Europe. Later to be expanded to Japan, Australia, Argentina.
    1969 Introduction of an all-fiberglass Work Center System for offices and line of lounge furniture for indoor / outdoor use by Douglas Deeds.
    1971 Establishment of Group Artec as the new over-all company name and the addition of a new division, Arcon Furniture. Introduction of new designs in Public Seating by Richard Thompson, and others, to provide one-piece, unitized, massive seating arrangements for large public areas.
    1972 Establishment of Architectural Ceramic Surfaces, a new division to produce quality floor and wall tile in new earthy glazes and textures designed by David Cressey.
    1972 Presentation of the Thompson R/S System for offices based on a space frame concept of modularity and adaptability.

    Scope and Content

    Collection consists of records of the firm Architectural Pottery/Group Artec, established by Rita and Max Lawrence in 1950. Includes correspondence, publicity materials, photographic slides and scrapbooks. Also contains invoices, design statements and drawings, blueprints, patent information, catalogs and brochures, and magazine and newspaper articles.

    Expanded Scope and Content

    These records represent all surviving records of the Los Angeles firm best known under its first name, Architectural Pottery. The majority of the records were destroyed by fire August 26, 1984. This means that varying amounts of materials were preserved in the various subgroups. There is a probably complete run of the printed catalogs, for example, 1950-1973; but a limited amount of correspondence and office records, primarily from the 1960s-1970s. The records that remain were preserved by Max and Rita Lawrence. The records consist of design ideas and correspondence with designers; internal memos about production and marketing ideas; marketing means, such as photographs of products used as catalogs and printed catalogs; press releases; photographs of showrooms and installations; correspondence with foreign licensees; design awards and submissions; and two scrapbooks kept by Rita Lawrence of publicity achieved. Correspondence, photographs, and some sketches document the work of product designers, including: John Follis, Rex Goode, Douglas Deeds, LaGardo Tackett, Elsie Crawford, and Lawrence Halprin. Correspondence with museums and printed items from the museums includes material from The Museum of Modern Art (New York), The Temporary Contemporary Museum of Modern Art (Los Angeles), and Philadelphia Museum of Art.

    Organization and Arrangement

    Arranged in the following series:
    1. Designers.
    2. Production and management.
    3. Designs.
    4. Warehouse.
    5. Foreign.
    6. Possible ventures.
    7. Sales.
    8. Procedures.
    9. Outreach.
    10. History.
    11. Development and operations.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Lawrence, Rita--Archives.
    Lawrence, Max--Archives.
    Architectural Pottery (Firm: Los Angeles, Calif.)--Archives.
    Furniture designers--California--Los Angeles--Archival resources.