With support from the Raymond L. Watson Library Fund, I am now four months into my 15 month appointment processing regional history collections at UCI Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives. Fittingly, I started with the Raymond L. Watson papers (MS-R120), as Watson donated additional materials to his archive. Though I’m still finishing up the remaining processing of the digital component from the collection, an updated finding aid is available until the final version is complete in just a few weeks (estimated April 2012).
Watson, former president and CEO of The Irvine Company, began his career with the Company in September 1960 and, with the exception of the years 1977 to 1983, had been involved continuously with the Company in various capacities until his retirement in 2003. As an architect and planner, with both his BA and MA degrees in Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley (1951 and 1953, respectively), Watson was enticed by The Irvine Company in 1960 to leave both a great job and a beautiful, newly purchased first home in the Bay area, for the architect’s and planner’s dream of a lifetime–to plan and build a new town, from scratch, right here in sunny Orange County. That “town” would eventually become Irvine, California (incorporated in 1971).
Between 1960 and 1965, Watson had quickly advanced within The Irvine Company, going from Architect Planner, to Manager of Planning, to Vice President of Planning. In autumn of 1965, Watson and Albert Trevino, Jr., then the Chief Planner for The Irvine Company, participated in a tour of planned communities in six European countries–a trip that would help inform and shape The Irvine Company’s planning and development of it’s landholdings of 93, 000 acres. The European Planned Community Tour took place from September 21 to October 6, 1965. Leaving from Kennedy Airport, most of the attendees flew as a group via SAS to Glasgow, Scotland where they would begin their 15-day journey that would take them from Scotland, to England, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Germany.
Along with Watson and Trevino from The Irvine Company, attendees included Donald Bren (then the President of the Mission Viejo Company); Ada Louise Huxtable, the newly appointed (in 1963) and first ever architecture critic for The New York Times; L. Garth Huxtable, Industrial Designer (and husband to Ada); writer and journalist Gurney Breckenfeld (and then a Contributing Editor for Time magazine) who went on to write Columbia and the new cities (1971); and writer/producer/filmmaker/preservation movement supporter Gordon Hyatt, then of CBS television. Architects, community planners, builders and developers, economists, writers, and financiers from across the United States, with many from Southern California, participated in the tour.
Tours of planned communities and new towns included Cumbernauld (14 miles from Glasgow), one of the first designated new towns that broke from Ebenezer Howard’s garden city model; new towns Welwyn Garden City (built in 1920 and one of the first new towns in the UK) and Stevenage (then regarded as one of the best of the Garden Cities by critics), both near London; the now notorious Brutalist structure Park Hill flats in Sheffield; tours of Vällingby, Farsta, Bredäng, and Satra near Stockholm; and a tour of the new town Tapiola Garden City in Helsinki, among others. For each of the tours, lectures and talks by city planners and architects either preceded or followed the tours. Discussions over cocktails in the evenings were also often scheduled, as the tour participants stayed at the same hotel.
Although the European Planned Community Tour materials in the Watson papers are just a fraction of the collection, they are rich with information as they include detailed itineraries, lists of participants and biographical information, informational brochures for some of the sites visited, biographical notes on tour speakers, and detailed writings on the sites visited. Here’s a few of the brochures for Cumbernauld in Scotland and Tapiola Garden City in Finland: (click on the images to enlarge)