William Lanier

Courtesy of Western Regional Archives






1947 - 1948





Albert Lanier was born in a small town in Georgia. At the age of sixteen he enrolled at Georgia Tech to study architecture. He interrupted his studies to serve in the United States Navy. After service he returned to Georgia Tech, but decided along with other dissatisfied students including Ragland Watkins and Si Sillman to enroll at Black Mountain to study art and architecture.

Lanier enrolled in the fall of 1947 and remained through the summer of 1948. He was instrumental in the design and construction of the Minimum House at the college.

At Black Mountain, Lanier met his wife, Ruth Asawa, and the couple married in 1949 making San Francisco their home. Initially, Lanier worked as an architectural draftsman and took on various architectural jobs to help support the family.

He worked for a year for San Francisco architect Mario Corbett before establishing a partnership with Roy Maru. After working for John Funk, he established a second partnership with Paul Merrill. Lanier was noted for his residential designs and renovations. A committed preservationist, he was instrumental in saving the historic Piazzoni murals at the de Young Museum from destruction and designed the first renovation of the Noe Valley Branch Library. He designed a number of youth hostels in California.

He worked tirelessly with Ruth to establish a high school for the arts, the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts. Asawa and Lanier were collaborators on many projects, and their home in the Mission district was a center for arts and political activism.


Wife: Fellow BMC student, Ruth Asawa

deKooning and Lanier in Buckminster Fullers summer class.Working on the Supine Dome, 1948.
Photograph of author


Mary Emma Harris

Mary Harris has long been regarded as one of the most prominent scholars on Black Mountain College. Her book, "The Arts at Black Mountain College" (1987), is one of the most influential publications on the history of BMC.

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