Whenever we see a white cylinder planted with a tree or flowers inside or outside an office building or a bank, and now quite often at gasoline stations, all of that is the heritage of Architectural Pottery.

Bill Stern, director of the Museum of California Design

In the late 1940s, a new style was emerging in California, with architects and designers wanting to create a seamless integration of outdoor and indoor space. Designers like Hendrik van Keppel, Taylor Green and Walter Lamb were creating furniture that functioned in both settings and there was a need for accessories that did the same. Rita Milaw Lawrence and her husband Max Lawrence founded Architectural Pottery in 1950 to fill this void, recruiting talented artists such as John Follis and LaGardo Tackett from the California School of Arts in Pasadena to create a line of modern ceramics. 

The cover of the October 21, 1951 Los Angeles Times "Home" section. "What makes the California Look? In this abstract arrangement are the glowing color, originality of treatment and simplicity of design that typify the California look."

Architectural Pottery's first catalog in 1951 was radical for the times, with the pure, streamlined forms and stark white being a departure from the ubiquitous fat-lipped terracotta pots that had been used since time immemorial. Architectural Pottery was instantly recognized and pieces from their first catalog were included in the 1951 MoMa Good Design exhibition. They offered what Rita Lawrence described as a “portable landscape” that unified the interior and exterior environments. Architectural Pottery pieces were and remain to be incredibly popular and a modern design classic— they can be found in nearly any designed California interior from the era (pictured below) and were used commercially as well, such as at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, debuted in 1955, which featured hundreds of pieces lining the building. 

Architectural Pottery In The Home