Paul Lester Wiener papers , 1913-1968

Overview of the Collection

Wiener, Paul Lester, 1895-1967
Paul Lester Wiener papers
1913-1968 (inclusive)
48.25 linear feet, (31 containers, 83 tubes)
Collection Number
Bx 155
Collection comprises the papers of American architect and urban planner Paul Lester Wiener, including architectural and urban planning records for projects undertaken in Latin America, South America, Middle East, and U.S., 1934-1965; speeches, manuscripts of articles, book proposals, biographical information, and a bibliography of works by and about Wiener; and incoming and outgoing correspondence with professional associates and staff, 1913-1968. Architectural and urban planning records are arranged by project and include plans, drawings, specifications, photographs, research materials and memoranda. Major correspondents include José Luis Sert, Paul Schulz and Richard Bender.
University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives
UO Libraries--SCUA
1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR
Telephone: 5413463068
Access Restrictions

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time. Glass plate negatives and lantern slides are restricted due to the fragility of the format. All decisions regarding use will be at the discretion of the curator for visual materials.

Additional Reference Guides

Paper finding aid with additional information available in Special Collections and University Archives.

See the Current Collection Guide for detailed description and requesting options.

Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Historical NoteReturn to Top

Paul Lester Wiener was born in Leipzig, Germany, in 1895. He was educated in the Royal Academy of Berlin with post graduate study in Vienna and Paris. He came to the United States in 1913 and became a citizen in 1919. He returned to Europe for further study and work until 1927. With Bruno Paul, Wiener founded Contempora, a group of international artists, in 1928. Returning to the United States that year, Wiener took up a comfortable architectural practice and in 1937 designed the U.S. Government building and its interiors for the International Exposition in Paris. For his work, he was awarded three Grand Prix by the Jury of the Exposition.

In 1938, Paul Lester Wiener was commissioned by the governments of Ecuador and Brazil to organize and design interiors and exhibits for these countries' pavilions at the New York World's Fair. The war years found him working with the U.S. Office of Production and Research Development as well as in his own company, Ratio Structures, Inc., to develop prefabricated and demountable housing, suitable for post war housing construction and retail marketing. In 1942, Wiener joined José Luis Sert, formerly of Barcelona, Spain, to form Town Planning Associates which was to operate until 1959 as an architectural, urban planning and site planning consultant firm of international reputation. During this period, Wiener lectured extensively in the United States and Latin America as an expert in urban planning.

With Town Planning Associates, Paul Lester Wiener accomplished his most notable work. Collaborating with Le Corbusier, Wiener and Sert originated a master plan for the city of Bogota and several other city units in Columbia which were based on the principles of planning for expected population and organizing the growth of the city in and efficient manner, as well as reorganizing existing features to provide planned living and recreational space for residents with an eye to preventing the undesirable effects of random growth such as slum housing and inequitable distribution of land, etc.

While Bogota, Cali, Medillin and Chibote were extant cities, Cidade dos Motores, Brazil, was a jungle wilderness near Rio de Janiero, when Wiener and Sert undertook to plan a city for 25,000 persons from the very beginning. Primarily conceived as an industrial community to house workers and supervisors of a huge wartime airplane factory, Cidade dos Motores presented the opportunity for the town planner to organize the total development of the urban unit. The entire plan was completed in 1949 and was widely publicized in planning circles. Other than published records, little in this collection documents Cidade dos Motores.

Wiener continued to work in Latin America, establishing a national planning commission in Havana as a base for five planning projects for the country of Cuba. Examining the work of Town Planning Associates for the three years in Cuba, it is interesting to note the political forces which played a large part in this and any planning project. The actual planning entailed a reconstruction of the core of Havana, several neighborhood and resort areas, and the planning of the Presidential Palace.

Yet another kind of planning was executed by Wiener in the project initiated by the Orinoco Mining Company in Venezuela, where private corporations worked with the government and professional planners and architects to develop two urban units and port for use by the mining company which would last past the life of the business venture as successful communities. This plan took three years to completely develop, beginning in 1951.

In 1958, Wiener accepted his most significant commission in the United States: to plan a neighborhood development in the Washington Square area of New York City, providing several thousand housing units within a six block area. Combining his concepts of clean basic lines an functional form with bold color, he designed a series of high rise apartments which incorporated outdoor patio style living with the convenience of a central urban location and exciting visual environment.

Although Wiener had done some residential designing all during his career, he turned to this more during the sixties, designing summer homes, planning renovations of apartments and houses and creating distinctive interiors for his clients. Employing straight lines relieved by bright colors and pieces of sculpture and paintings, he achieved an amenable compromise between show place and functional home. He continued in this work and as a consultant in residential housing projects until his death in 1967.

Paul Lester Wiener was a gentleman whose home, office and thoughts were open to a variety of world wide associates with whom he met to plan, to build, to discuss, to persuade. he worked to provide a pliable plan for the construction of an environment in which the human could live and work in comfort and confidence of a sustained condition of excellence. In his own words, he describes his reasons for being a planner and architect: "It has been forever my fate to want to bring order into chaos. Consequently whenever a fateful person or situation presents itself, I am compelled to try to right it in the best ways I can. [...] It proceeds from a creative instinct to construct something of balance. [...] Elements are used in designing buildings or objects by means of an idea where its component parts are formed into a homogeneous group. They are satisfying when all the component parts are properly placed in their relation to the whole. Humans are the most difficult materials for the process of the creative urge."

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The materials in the Paul Lester Wiener Papers are arranged in six sections. The first two sections are his professional work in town planning and architectural design, arranged in alphabetical order by project and subdivided into major and small project categories. The third, forth, and fifth sections are of a more personal nature and include texts of speeches, manuscripts of articles, proposals for books, biographical information and a bibliography of works by and about Mr. Wiener, including copies of some published pieces. The final section comprises incoming and outgoing correspondence; the first arranged alphabetically by agency; the latter arranged chronologically and including letters originated by Paul Lester Wiener and his professional associates, Jose-Luis Sert, Paul Schulz, Richard Bender and members of the staff. It should be noted that this section of correspondence is primarily made up of letters not directly pertaining to the work of an individual project, but which are of a "general" nature. There is duplication of names from the project files in these general files.

Photographs, slides an photographic negatives of various projects as well as material for lectures and comparative studies are included with the collection.

The collection consists of cartons, following the outline of the inventory content, several pieces of oversize material stored separately as well as plans, drawings, and blueprints.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Architects--United States--Correspondence
  • Architecture, Domestic--Designs and plans
  • City planners--United States--Correspondence
  • German American architects--United States
  • Public architecture--Latin America--Designs and plans

Personal Names

  • Sert, José Luis, 1902-1983
  • Wiener, Paul Lester, 1895-1967
  • Wiener, Paul Lester, 1895-1967

Corporate Names

  • Town Planning Associates

Geographical Names

  • Bogotá (Columbia)--Designs and plans

Form or Genre Terms

  • Architectural drawings
  • Architectural photographs
  • Architectural records