The James B. McDaniel Records (1960-1978) comprise the plans and drawings created by Las Vegas, Nevada architect James McDaniel who worked independently as James Brooks McDaniel Architect (from 1960-1978) and with a partner as Moffitt and McDaniel Architects, Limited (during the 1970s). This collection includes materials from over 115 projects managed by McDaniel. Records include oversized architectural drawings, and files of architectural projects. McDaniel designed many University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) buildings, residential, commercial, and landscape designs for Las Vegas clients. Also included are business files of construction estimates, specifications, invoices, change orders, and correspondence.
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Scope and Contents Note
The James B. McDaniel Architectural Records (1960-1978) contain 207.04 linear feet of materials and comprise the plans and drawings created by Las Vegas, Nevada architect James McDaniel, who worked independently as James Brooks McDaniel Architect (from 1960-1978) and with a partner at Moffitt and McDaniel Architects, Limited (during the 1970s). Records include oversized architectural drawings and files of architectural projects. McDaniel designed many University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) buildings including the Performing Arts Center and Artemus Ham Hall, the Fine Arts Complex, and the circular addition to the Archie C. Grant Hall library, the university library building in the 1960s on the Nevada Southern University (now UNLV) campus. The records contain residential, commercial, and landscape designs for Las Vegas clients and include designs for the California Hotel and Casino, the Southwest Gas Corporation, a master plan for Nellis Air Force Base, the Maryland Medical Building, and housing projects for the Las Vegas Housing Authority.
The materials document the firm’s work on projects in the United States, with a strong focus on the Las Vegas, Nevada area and feature: photographs, including prints, slides, and film negatives; architectural drawings, ranging from early preliminary sketches to construction documents and specifications; and corporate records, including correspondence and memos. The drawings also contain work from a number of consultants, engineers, and other architects who collaborated on the development of the various projects. These include several sets of original construction documents that James McDaniel used for reference while working on additions, alterations, expansions, and remodels to the original buildings. A typical set of construction documents may include drawings like: site plans, floor plans, exterior and interior elevations, building and wall sections, construction details, structural plans, as well as plans and diagrams for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems.
Collection is open for research.
Materials in this collection may be protected by copyrights and other rights. See Reproductions and Use on the UNLV Special Collections and Archives website for more information about reproductions and permissions to publish.
Materials are arranged alphabetically by project name.
Biographical / Historical Note
Born in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1931, James B. McDaniel trained as an architect at the University of Southern California and graduated in 1955. He began practice as an architect in Las Vegas in 1958 and established his own office in 1960. He worked independently in his own firm, James Brooks McDaniel Architect, throughout his career and later partnered with Gerald M. Moffitt to form Moffitt and McDaniel Architects, Limited in the 1970s. In addition, he often consulted or collaborated with architects and engineers including Jack Knighton, Leo Borns, George Tate, David Wells and Ralph E. Phillips, Jr. McDaniel, like many of his young contemporaries, initially had difficulty getting licensed in Nevada because the test was written by the older local architects like Walter Zick and Elmer Bruner. These older architects believed there were too many architects moving into Las Vegas and deliberately devised a test that no one could pass. McDaniel and Julio Lucchesi protested to the governor about the state board exam which resulted in the exam being taken over by the national chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
McDaniel and his firm were responsible for the Nevada Southern University (NSU) master plan, which included McDaniel’s seminal idea of intersecting east-west malls defined the future layout of the campus. McDaniel, in addition to designing the NSU master plan, was among a number of local architects, including Zick & Sharp and Jack Miller, who designed buildings for the new NSU campus. McDaniel’s buildings, built in the period of architectural design now commonly referred to as Mid-Century Modern, defined the style of the early campus. The initial buildings on the north-south axis were of his design: the original round library, the Social Science Building (the original Wright Hall), and aligned at either end of the north-south mall, the original Student Union and the Performing Arts Center, comprising the Judy Bayley Theater and Artemus Ham Concert Hall with Claes Oldenburg’s iconic Flashlight sculpture in between. At the western terminus of the east-west mall is McDaniel’s Paul McDermott Physical Education Complex. In 1969 NSU was renamed University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV).
McDaniel designed a number of other prominent buildings in addition to his work on the UNLV campus, including the Downtown California Hotel, and the Maryland Medical Buildings. “[The Maryland Medical Buildings were] on Maryland Parkway, the flashcubes,” recalled his fellow-architect George Tate, “It’s all been redone now. But this was what Jim McDaniel called a flashcube. The architect’s design of the 21st century.” McDaniel also designed custom homes, apartment buildings, office buildings and shopping centers. His designs for the UNLV Physical Education Complex and a State Office Complex won competitive awards, although the State Office complex with its surrounding plaza and park was not built. He also created unrealized designs for an extensive downtown redevelopment project, a convention center, and a proposed monorail system.
McDaniel was preeminently a design architect influenced by the modernist ideas and styles current in his early years of training in southern California, styles in turn influenced by the then dominant International Style exemplified by the German ex-patriot Bauhaus architect Mies van der Rohe. The International Style was a style of simple horizontal, geometric shapes and planes, with unadorned structural framework and construction materials of formed steel and concrete, and glass. To this style, California added odd angles, curves and parabolas which lent McDaniel’s buildings of that era their distinctive look. Like his fellow modernist architects, McDaniel was interested in more than the building itself; he also designed elaborate landscapes to provide context for his buildings whether for a new urban university campus, or public parks and plazas. McDaniel died of cancer in 1977.
In February 1979 the UNLV Art Gallery mounted a memorial exhibit of his work. “It is my hope,” explained exhibit director, Rita Abbey, “that this exhibition will focus an awareness and appreciation of Jim’s far-reaching functional and aesthetic influence on this community.” In 1985 UNLV erected a memorial in his honor at the foot of the Performing Arts Center which he had designed. George Tate remembered McDaniel this way: “Jim was my age. . . Jim McDaniel had talent, a terrible personality, but a real talent. He designed the first [UNLV] library, the round one. . .. I love to appreciate some of his early work. Jim was a great architect and died a very untimely death of cancer. If Jim had lived I’m sure we would have seen a lot of Jim’s work here. He was great.”
George Tate, oral interview, UNLV Libraries Special Collections, OH-01803
Michel, Peter. “The Back Story: Constructing the Performing Arts Center”, UNLV Today, March 7, 2017.
Michel, Peter. The Once and Future Campus: James McDaniel and the Mid-Century Modern Campus. Exhibit, UNLV Libraries Special Collections, September, 2015.
Michel, Peter. From Tract House to Bauhaus: The Modern House in Mid-Century Las Vegas, An Exhibit, UNLV Libraries Special Collections, July, 2015.
James B. McDaniel Architectural Records, 1960-1978. MS-00203. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.
Donated by Kathleen McDaniel on behalf of James McDaniel in 1978; accession number 1978-169.
Material was partially processed and inventoried by Special Collection and Archives staff. In 2014, as part of a legacy finding aid conversion project, Hannah Robinson entered the inventory into ArchiveSpace and began writing the guide to this collection. In 2017, Jimmy Chang and Tyler Stanger rehoused, arranged, and described the collection, and completed the guide to this collection.