Gene Summers fonds

Gene Summers fonds

Part of


  • Gene Summers (creator)
  • Gene Summers (archive creator)
  • Gene Summers (architect)


Gene Summers fonds

Dates of creation

1957 - 2004


  • archives

Level of archival description


Extent and Medium

  • 3231 drawings including 1549 reprograhic copies
  • 3075 photographic materials
  • 6 maps
  • 0.56 l.m. of textual records
  • 4 books
  • 13 ephemera
  • 31 artefacts
  • 7 digital files (14.3 MB)
  • 4 models
  • 2 paintings
  • 2 collages
  • 1 audio recording

Scope and Content

The earliest documents are notes and sketches dating from Gene Summers' studies at IIT and his work with the Office of Mies van der Rohe. The most recent material in the fonds consists of documents created or compiled in conjunction with the preparation of the book "Gene Summers art/architecture" by Werner Blaser (Basel : Birkhäuser, 2003).

The content of this archive emphasises primarily the later part of Gene Summers' career as an architect, developer, artist and art collector; Summer's early work with the Office of Mies van der Rohe and C.F. Murphy Associates is summarily represented by notes, sketches, photographs and other documentation.

The majority of the archive is devoted to the projects of Ridgway Development Ltd. With the development of the light industrial parks Cañada Business Center and Cerritos Industrial Park, and large -scale housing projects such as Desert Gardens and Lakeline, Gene Summers and Phyllis Lambert combined their architectural practice with an approach to real estate development that allowed them total control over the design and costs of their projects. Ridgway's design and development philosophy also embraced the re-use of existing buildings. The acclaimed restoration of the Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel (1976-1984), the largest single project in the archive, was followed by the transformation of the Newporter Inn, Newport Beach, California (1982-1984). The material relating to Ridgway Ltd. consists mainly of drawings, reproductions and photographs. Textual documentation related to Ridgway Limited can be found in the Fonds Phyllis Lambert at the CCA (to request access to the Fonds Phyllis Lambert, please contact the Reference Dept.).

Another important theme in the archive is Summers' activities in producing and collecting art. These interests intersected with Summers' architectural career in Ridgway projects such as the Biltmore Hotel, and the Newporter Resort Hotel where artist Jim Dine was commissioned to produce works of art and furnishings for the guest rooms and public spaces (a selection of these works are included in the archive). Summers also designed furniture for the Ridgway offices and decorated them with art from his private collection. The archive includes numerous sketches and plans for bronze furniture by Summers, as well a collection of his hand-made wooden bowls.

The archive is presented in two series, the first featuring 4 sub-series and the second divided into 3 subseries.

SERIES I - Professional Documents (1957-2004)

A. Architectural Projects

B. Furniture Projects

C. Promotional Documents

D. Monograph

SERIES II - Personal Documents (1980-1985)

A. Personal production - art and writing

B. Collections - art and books

Series I consists of professional documents relating to Gene Summers' career as an architect and furniture maker. In its original state, the architectural material had no clear classification scheme; documents were not systematically separated by project, the projects were un-numbered and the documents were mostly un-dated. These documents have therefore been assembled by project and stored according to their type and size. The furniture projects were also in random order and have been separated into smaller groupings following their nature and size. For storage purposes, framed works of art and the bas-relief sculptures of Jim Dine have been grouped together. Material related to the book by Werner Blaser (published by Birkhäuser in 2003) has been preserved in its original order. The promotional documents consist of slides and printed material illustrating Gene Summers' work throughout his career and are identified by project, where possible.

Series II is made up of personal documents that reflect Gene Summers' interest in art and architecture. They include drawings and photographs by Summers, printed material and works on paper by artists and architects and a small selection of books relating to architecture.

Reference Number



The fonds is arranged into two series: Professional documents (1957-2004) and Personal documents (1980-1985).

Biographical notes

After graduating from the architecture school of Texas A&M University in 1949, Gene Summers (b. 31 July 1928, San Antonio, Texas) entered the graduate program at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), studying under Mies van der Rohe. Before the completion of his degree in 1951, Summers was invited to work for the Office of Mies van der Rohe. He became a key collaborator in the office, working closely with Mies as project architect on seminal buildings such as the Seagram Building (1954-58), the Ron Bacardi y Compañia Administration Building project, Cuba (1957-60), the New National Gallery, Berlin (1962-68) and the Federal Centre in Chicago (1959-73), until his departure in 1966. Summers joined the Chicago firm of C.F. Murphy and Associates in 1967, as partner in charge of design, working on projects such as McCormick Place, Chicago (1970) and the Kemper Arena, Kansas City (1973). In 1973, Summers and Phyllis Lambert, with whom he had worked on the Seagram Building, founded Ridgway Development Ltd., an architectural and development firm based in Newport Beach, California. In addition to industrial and residential projects, Ridgway Ltd. bought, restored and operated the classic Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles (1976-1984). Summers moved to Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France, in 1984, where he designed and produced bronze furniture. He returned to the United States in 1989 to become Dean of the College of Architecture at IIT, a position he held until 1993. Gene Summers died December 12, 2011 in Sebastopol, California.

Conditions governing access

  • Access by appointment only.

Conditions governing reproduction

  • For copyright information or permission to reproduce material from the fonds, please contact the CCA (reproductions@cca.qc.ca).

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

  • Gift of Gene Summers in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, and his estate in 2012.

Custodial history

The fonds was donated to the Canadian Centre for Architecture by Gene Summers between 2000 and 2004. A digital reproduction of a manuscript by Gene Summers, was transmitted to the CCA in 2012 by the architect's widow.

Archivist's note

  • The Gene Summers fonds was originally processed and described by Nathalie Senécal in 2002. In 2012, Mary Louise Gordon edited the finding aid and created new descriptions for records received in 2001, 2004 and 2012. As part of data cleanup related to AMS migration in 2022, Jillian Forsyth edited the online finding aid to conform with the most recent CCA standards.

Credit line

When citing the collection as a whole, use the citation: Gene Summers fonds, Collection Centre Canadien d’Architecture/Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal. When citing specific collection material, please refer to the object’s specific credit line.

Language of material



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