Female, US, born 1918-11-23, died 1996-05-10

Associated with the firms network

Daniel, Mann, Johnson and Mendenhall (DMJM); Gruen, Victor, Associates, Architecture / Planning / Engineering; Head, Chalfant, and Associates, Architects; Huyn, Cohn, Graham and Wilson, Architects; Neutra, Richard J., Architect; Wilson, Zelma G., Architect

Professional History

Draftsperson, Los Angeles City Planning Department, Los Angeles, CA, 1948. Draftsperson, Daniel, Mann, Johnson and Mendenhall (DMJM), Architects, Los Angeles, CA, c. 1948; Architect, Richard Neutra, Architect, Los Angeles, CA; Architect, Victor Gruen Partnership, Los Angeles, CA. Partner, Huyn, Cohn, Graham, and Wilson, Architects, Los Angeles, CA, 1954-1956; Partner, Chalfant Head and Associates, Ojai, CA, 1965-1967; Principal, Zelma G. Wilson, Architect, 1967-1995, Ojai, CA. Wilson moved to Ojai, CA, before 1965.

She became a Registered Architect in the State of Califorina, 1956. Wilson joined the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1964; Executive Board Member, AIA, Ventura County Chapter, 1975-1980; President, AIA, Ventura County Chapter, 1977; Commissioner, California State Board of Architectural Examiners, Oral Examiner and Design Grader (1978-1983 and 1986-1990); Contributing Writer, Architecture California; Contributing Writer, Ojai Valley News.

Fellow, American Institute of Architects (FAIA).

Papers of Zelma Gussin Wilson, 1950-1995, are held at the International Archive of Women Architects, Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg, VA. Collection # Ms91-046.


Coursework, University of California, Berkeley, 1937-1940; Coursework, California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Pasadena, CA, 1941; B.Arch., University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 1947; Wilson was the only woman in her graduating class at USC that year. Coursework in sculpture, L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France, 1962;

First Prize, Retail Store Design Competition, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 1946;



Born in New York, NY, she spent her youth in Santa Paula, CA, and later attended universities in Berkeley, CA, Pasadena, CA, and Los Angeles, CA. With her family, she resided in France from the mid-1950s for about 10 years. Upon returning, they settled in Ojai, CA, where she died at the age of 77.


Her mother's maiden name was Miller; her parents were Jewish immigrants to the U.S. from Lithuania and Belarus. Her sister was Sylvia Jarrico.


Her maiden name was Gussin; she married Michael Wilson (1914-1978), a filmmaker and screen writer, who was blacklisted during the McCarthy Era. An acquaintance of theirs, J. Marx Ayres wrote of the effects of the House Un-American Activities Committee on Zelma and her husband: "The committee grabbed headlines from the cooperative press by chasing Hollywood writers and film celebrities. Hundreds were fired from their jobs and were 'blacklisted' by all of the film studios. This action brought harm to the individuals and their families. For example, film writer Michael Wilson's wife Zelma, a talented Architect, was fired from her job at Daniel, Mann, Johnson & Mendenhall on the day her husband was named by HUAC. She was told to pack up her belongings and be out of the office by 5pm. When she asked why, she was told that she selected 'the wrong colors of paint on her last project'. The family, with children, moved to France where Michael wrote film scripts under false names. The Hollywood film studios then produced the films." (See J. Marx Ayres, Red Diaper Baby, Mid-Life Transitions, An Autobiography of J. Marx Ayres Volume II: 1946-2011, [Victoria, BC: Trafford Publishing, 2012], p. 56-57.)

Wilson wrote the screenplay for "Salt of the Earth" (1954) a depiction of a labor strike against a New Mexico zinc mine, that was viewed at the time to be too radical and threatening to American values. Because of the blacklist, Michael took his family to live in France, where he adapted a screen play of French novelist Pierre Boulle's "Le Pont de la Rivière Kwai" (1952); Wilson won an Oscar for the screenplay with Carl Foreman (1914-1984, screenwriter of the film "High Noon" [1952]) and Boulle (1912-1994, who also penned the novel, "Planet of the Apes" [1963]). The film, "The Bridge over the River Kwai" (1957), directed by British director Sir David Lean (1908-1991), won seven Academy Awards. Wilson also co-wrote (with Robert Bolt) the screenplay for Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962), which, like "Bridge," won seven Academy Awards. Zelma and Michael Wilson left the US in the mid-1950s, staying in France until the mid-1960s.

Zelma and her husband, Michael Wilson, had two daughters: Becca Wilson of Los Angeles and Rosanna Wilson-Farrow of Mendocino.

SSN: 572-28-5183;

Associated Locations

  • New York, NY (Architect's Birth)
    New York, NY

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  • Ojai, CA (Architect's Birth)
    Ojai, CA

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PCAD id: 1273