Posts tagged with "Palm Springs":

The Aluminaire House finds a permanent home in Palm Springs

After a long and winding journey, the Aluminaire House has finally found a permanent home in Palm Springs, California. The 1,200-square-foot, all-metal house arrived in the high desert early last year on the back of a freight truck, just in time for the annual Modernism Week celebration. The home was greeted by a hero’s welcome after having just completed the final leg of a perilous journey from New York, where it had been installed, inhabited, and exhibited variously over the decades. The disassembled structure has sat in storage in the months since, as preparations continue for its final installation as a house museum and interpretive center in conjunction with the development of a new two-acre downtown plaza designed by Los Angeles–based Rios Clementi Hale Studios (RCH Studios). The iconic all-steel structure was designed in 1931 by Albert Frey and A. Lawrence Kocher as a prototype for a new kind of efficient and modern domestic life. The experimental home was initially exhibited in 1931 at the Grand Central Palace in New York City by the Allied Arts and Industries and the Architectural League of New York and was shown to the public again the following year by the Museum of Modern Art. The Aluminaire House was then purchased and moved by architect Wallace Harrison to his estate in Long Island, where it served as a guest house until 1986, when it was moved to the Central Islip campus of the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) by architects Frances Campani and Michael Schwarting in order to prevent its demolition. Although the NYIT Central Islip campus closed down in 2005, the Aluminaire House remained installed there until 2012, when it was disassembled by Campani and Schwarting and stored for posterity. The home was nearly installed in Sunnyside, Queens as part of a new townhouse development the following year, but the plan was scuttled after neighborhood opposition arose against the project. The Aluminaire Foundation sprung up in 2013 and began preparations for moving the home out west to Palm Springs, one of the region’s many cradles of mid century modern architecture and design. When construction completed in 2020 on the new Palm Springs Downtown Park, the home willoccupy a prominent perch on Museum Drive, surrounded by a grove of trees, an outdoor gallery, and the rest of the park—just across the street from the Palm Springs Art Museum. Nate Cormier, principal at RCH Studio, said, “The Aluminaire House was a key element of the park from the start of the most recent round of conceptual design work. As fans of modern architecture, we were excited about its incorporation, but we were also challenged to find a way to give it its own space.” According to the architect, the city’s new town square will stitch together a series of disparate elements—including the Aluminaire House, a central pond and lawn, and a 28-foot-tall statue dedicated to Marilyn Monroe—in a new urban setting studded with plant species taken from local canyons and hiking trails. With California fan palms, Honey Mesquite trees, white sage, chuparosa, and Indian Tea shrubs, the park will aim to provide urban amenities using a locally-derived plant palate.Cormier added, “The park is an urban oasis, a rustic retreat [meant to] offer comforts and delights that are rooted in the intrinsic qualities of the regional landscape.” The Aluminaire House will sit on its own site adjacent to the main square to establish “a more residential relationship with the adjacent streets,” as Cormier explains. There, the restored home will be maintained by the Aluminaire Foundation as a public resource. Cormier and RCH Studios founding partner Mark Rios will be presenting the final schematic designs for the park at a special community update for the park Friday, February 23 at Palm Springs Art Museum in conjunction with Modernism Week. See the event website for more information

Palm Springs planned community boasts an olive grove in the desert

Palm Springs is the latest city to embrace environmentally conscious design, as 300 acres of what was originally slated for a golf course will instead become an ecologically-oriented planned community. Miralon, a 1,150-unit development in Coachella Valley with 75 acres of olive groves, will join agricultural neighborhoods across the country when it opens this fall. Miralon, despite its ambitious name, wasn’t originally pitched as a holistic district. Before the 2008 recession, developer SunCal had begun work on an “Avalon” neighborhood on the same plot, even going so far as to build out a 75-acre, 18-hole golf course. After the market crash, the land was left untended for a decade, and the harsh desert winds destroyed the course. Enter national developer Freehold Communities, which unveiled plans for Miralon on the same plot early last year. Banking on the idea that prospective buyers were more interested in living near open space rather than a golf course specifically, Freehold has planted 70 acres of olive trees on what used to be the course, as well as smaller groves in the teeing areas. Besides being drought and pest resistant (olives need to be cured before they’re edible), the olive trees are expected to produce up to 15,000 gallons of oil every year, to be harvested and pressed on site by the Temecula Olive Oil Company. Other than the groves, Miralon will convert 6.5 miles of roads originally designated for golf carts into hiking and jogging trails, and all of the 1,150 buildings will come equipped with solar panels. The Modernist-inspired residences will be a mix of single-family homes, condos, and townhouses, and will all adhere to design guidelines drawn up by Robert Hidey Architects. Under Robert Hidey’s framework, all buildings will need to adhere to a shared material palette, height restrictions, plant selections and a plan for arranging homes to keep the neighborhood from looking monotonous. Robert Hidey will also be designing the community’s central clubhouse, and C2 Collaborative Landscape Architecture will handle the landscaping and olive grove installation. Miralon seems to be hopping on a $134 billion worldwide trend of planned wellness communities, as well as the trend towards agricultural communities that blend residences with farm-to-table dining.

A California city will give $50K to the buyer who preserves this midcentury home

A California city is offering $50,000 to buyers willing to restore a stunning midcentury modern home by an eminent local architect. City officials in Palm Desert, California are auctioning off a 1,900-square-foot, city-owned house designed by Walter S. White, an architect who built more than 50 experimental homes in the Coachella Valley area from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s. The open floor plan structure is distinguished by a parabolic roof that sails over the concrete block and glass walls and White's trademark cantilevered corner windows. That roof was designed to be in conversation with the backdrop of mountains that rise behind the house, and was a design patented by White. Among many notable features, the home sports a bathroom with a glass shower that opens into a private garden. Despite an impressive pedigree and design, the home, officially known as the Miles C. Bates House, is in profound disrepair, and additions from the 1970s (as seen in the photo at top) compromised the character of the original home. Although the city is obligated to transfer the deed to the highest bidder at auction, preservation-minded officials are hoping the $50,000 grant to restore the home will entice a likeminded buyer. (According to The Mercury News, the 50K offer is a no-go if the buyer substantially alters or demolishes the home.) Unlike other midcentury stunners in Palm Desert and neighboring Palm Springs, this one is relatively affordable. A city appraisal shows the property's market value is between $320,000 to $340,000. The house was completed in 1955 for artist Miles C. Bates. Starting today, the city is offering interested buyers private tours of the home, but during next month's Modernism Week, the annual celebration of modern architecture in and around Palm Springs, the property will be open to all for tours. For those looking to bid on the home, the fateful auction is scheduled for February 24, a day before Modernism Week wraps up.

Our recap from Palm Springs Modernism Week 2017

Palm Springs's Modernism Week, the desert city’s celebration of its modernist architecture, has just concluded a ten-day run. Founded in 2006, it typically features tours to the city’s iconic post-World War II modern homes and occasional commercial or institutional buildings, making it the most important event of its kind in the United States. In addition, it typically highlights a single important building every year, such as last year when it featured its Architecture Museum (a Marmol Radziner–designed renovation of the 1961 Savings and Loan building by E. Stewart Williams ), William Kriesel’s all-steel house tract development, and Sunnylands (the A. Quincy Jones–designed single bedroom mansion for the Annenberg family surrounded by a private 9-hole golf course). This year it highlighted the life and work of the architect John Lautner who designed the Elrod House in Palm Springs and a small motel now called The Lautner just down the road in Desert Hot Springs. It was only four years ago that architecture historian Jean-Louis Chen told a large Modernism Week crowd that Lautner hated the sober lines of the city’s midcentury modern architecture. But this year Lautner was memorialized, in true Southern California fashion, with his own ‘Star’ embedded in the sidewalk of Palm Canyon Drive, the city’s main thoroughfare. In addition, this year Modernism Week programmed a series of events around the arrival of Albert Frey’s 1931 Aluminaire House, which was transported from its home on Long Island to the dry desert air of the Coachella Valley. The flat-packed house sat all week on Palm Canyon Drive (next to Lautner’s star) in a large truck but will be resurrected on a city-owned site in the next twelve months. The organizers of Modernism Week also program lectures and presentations and this year I served on a panel Preservation Power Houses, Who, What, Why of Preservation and the Forces that Make it Happen. The panel featured many of California’s most important advocates and administrators responsible for the preservation of the state landmarks. The panel discussed the current state of preservation in California, current legislation affecting listing, and concluded with a discussion on how we might move preservation beyond highlighting only distinguished landmarks to saving structures and complexes that create the texture of neighborhoods. This might include, for example, California’s unique post-World War II typology of public schools. These stick-and-plaster built complexes, typically with breezeway arms of classrooms, spread from a central core out to large playgrounds. They arose out of the state's unique Mediterranean climate and the demand created by a population explosion in the 1950s. These schools represent an era when public education was promoted through modern architecture and they still define the progressive modernism of the state. It was an optimistic ending to the topic of preservation and the event had a large and enthusiastic audience interested in preserving modern architecture. Modernism Week always seems to attract to the desert a passionate and devoted audience that appreciates architecture and design and this year was no different. Finally, I visited Desert Palisades, a new development in an extraordinary 112-acre lunar-like landscape of boulders, located at the bottom of Chino Canyon. It will eventually accommodate 113 homes but opened with its first two houses by architects Lance O’Donnell and Case Studies architect Al Beadle; we will report on this development in a later article. The Palisades development is also the site of the first sculpture by artist Doug Aitken for the newly launched Desert X program of sculptures that embrace and celebrate the landscape and human issues of the desert. The Atkins piece is a domestic structure (not habitable) that will eventually be covered entirely with a glass-like surface meant to reflect the surrounding landscape back to the viewer. Last week it was only a frame structure that looked as if it were being blown away by strong desert winds. Desert X organizers claim it will consider the desert as not just a natural landscape but also a social construct of preconceived notions and real estate development. The sculptures will be installed over the next few months and will feature the structure when they are completed.

Aluminaire House arrives in Palm Springs

The 1931 Aluminaire House, as The Architect's Newspaper (AN) has reported, was left adrift in New York (its birth home) and then sent packing last week in a big rig to Palm Springs, California. The Lawrence Kocher and Albert Frey-designed house arrived safe and sound and was welcomed to Palm Springs in an official ceremony with dignitaries at the Albert Frey-designed Tramway Gas Station. While it’s sad to see the house leave New York, it does make sense for the all-metal structure to ‘retire’ to the sunny dry desert. Architects Michael Schwarting and Frances Campani worked for years to save the Aluminaire from destruction and oblivion, but when it became obvious that New York no longer wanted the structure and Palm Springs did, they decided to ship it to Frey’s long-time home on the desert. The container holding the house will be parked on south Palm Canyon Drive throughout Modernism Week (which runs February 16 to 26). After Modernism Week concludes, the container will be stored in the Palm Springs City Yard. It is meant to be included in the plans for the new Downtown Park. Once the park is completed (date to be decided) and the site for Aluminaire prepared, the home will be reassembled and opened for the public to tour.

Modernism Week in Palm Springs will feature new art installations and a Palm Canyon Drive “star” for John Lautner

Palm Springs Modernism Week began in 2006 as a small, local celebration of the desert city’s abundant modern architecture. It has grown in ambition and popularity every year and today many of its most popular tours sell out days after they are announced. It has become the model for other modernism programs around the country but still stands out for its expansive program of house and city tours, focused exhibitions in local museums, and design trade show. In addition, this year will witness the launch of Desert X, a series of art installations scattered around the Coachella Valley just outside Palm Springs. Finally, this is a city that honors architects with Hollywood Boulevard-like brass stars that feature notable names set into the sidewalks of the main street, Palm Canyon Drive. They have ‘stars’ for Albert Frey, Donald Wexler, E. Stewart Williams (who designed the city’s architecture museum), William Krisel, and photographer Julius Shulman. This year they will place a star for John Lautner who designed the spectacular Elrod House in the city and a hotel now called The Lautner in Desert Hot Springs. We will be reporting all week from the desert where it supposed to be raining and cold (60 degrees). Palm Springs Modernism weeks runs from February 16 to 26; learn more here.

Aluminaire House headed to Palm Springs

The 1931 Aluminaire House, like The Architect’s Newspaper, is leaving New York and headed to Palm Springs for Modernism Week. A new Paul Goldberger-narrated video tells the story of the Kocher and Frey-designed house and its journey from MoMA to Long Island and—this morning—to Palm Springs where it will arrive on February 14. In California, its first stop will be the Tramway Gas Station/Visitors Center, also designed by Frey, for a media event, and then it will be on display for the 11 days of Modernism Week. Afterward, the Aluminaire will again be in storage until the City of Palm Springs completes the design and construction of the new Downtown Palm Springs Park. There, directly across the street from the Palm Springs Art Museum, the Aluminaire will be reassembled and opened to the public, with funds raised by the ongoing work of the Aluminaire House Foundation.

Iconic Aluminaire House will move to Palm Springs

The Aluminaire House, designed by A. Lawrence Kocher and Albert Frey, will depart from storage in Long Island, NY on February 9th and travel across the country to Palm Springs, CA for Modernism Week, the annual celebration of midcentury architecture and design in Palm Springs. Originally built as a prototype for the 1931 Allied Arts and Industries and Architectural League of New York Exhibition, the house was an early modernist exemplar for the use of off-the-shelf building materials in residential architecture. After the exhibition closed, the structure was relocated from Midtown Manhattan to the estate of architect Wallace Harrison where it remained until the late 1980s. Passing through the stewardship of several owners who altered and expanded the house, it eventually fell into disrepair and was threatened with demolition. As a result of preservation efforts by historians and architects, the structure was moved in 1987 for the fourth, and purportedly final, time to the Central Islip Campus of the New York Institute of Technology where it was fully restored. However, its life on Long Island was relatively short lived. In 2012 the campus closed and the house was again disassembled and move into storage, out of the public’s view. Following negotiations with the City of Palm Springs, the Aluminaire House Foundation, led by Michael Schwarting, Kenneth Frampton, and Frances Campani, secured a permanent site for the house in a new downtown park which is slated for completion later this year. As such, the reassembled house will not be on display during Modernism Week, however it will be the subject of a lecture on February 25 and fundraising event later that day at the Siva House designed by Hugh Kaptur. When the house is finally reconstructed, a permanent board of directors will take over its care and offer regular hours for public viewing. For more on Modernism Week, see its website here.

Developers revive Eichler design for Palm Springs development

Late American real estate developer Joseph Eichler’s blueprints of a 1960 tract-housing design by architects Anshen + Allen were resurrected during February’s Modernism Week in Palm Springs, California, when modern-day developer and broker KUD Properties unveiled only the second home from these plans to be built after Eichler’s death in 1974 (KUD Properties revealed the first around the same time last year). Dubbed a “Desert Eichler,” the show house embodies the signature modernist features that led to Eichler’s cult following—and that are decidedly well-suited for the Southern California climate: The open floor plan is framed by walls of floor-to-ceiling glass, which maximize the home’s exposure to the sunlight and open air. 

“His hallmark is the interior courtyard that looks into the other rooms,” said KUD president Troy Kudlac, explaining a key element of Eichler’s contemporary appeal. “It offers both the simplicity and experience of indoor-outdoor living.”

With fellow agent and Eichler enthusiast Monique Lombardelli, Kudlac acquired the licensing to build an entire Palm Springs neighborhood’s worth of Eichler homes, each of which will be updated slightly to comply with contemporary specifications. Kudlac and his wife, Amy, furnished the recently completed show house with Carl Hansen & Søn, a producer of furniture by Eichler’s Danish contemporaries like Hans J. Wegner and Frits Henningsen.

“We found that Eichler and Danish design vibe really well,” Kudlac said. Despite the geographic distance, Eichler’s own embrace of minimalism matched a similar trend in Scandinavia. Carl Hansen & Søn also adopted the ethos of reduction and tidiness but expressed it in warm-colored woods sculpted into sinuous curves rather than with right angles and expanses of glass. Inside the show house, classics abound, including two Wegner designs, the 1944 Wishbone Chair and the 1963 Curve Chair, and Henningsen’s 1954 Signature Chair, all distinguished by their slim profiles and delicately carved or molded wooden frames. “This minimal look means that the furniture doesn’t impede views of the outside,” Kudlac said.

A color palette more in sync with the arid Palm Springs climate tempers the interior’s Scandinavian leanings. The kitchen tiling, textiles, and tabletop accents alternate between the pale yellows and light blues that recur throughout Palm Springs landmarks, most notably in an iconic poolside image of Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann House taken by photographer Slim Aarons, a recent re-creation of which hangs in the Desert Eichler den.

Although mid-20th century Scandinavian and Californian designs evolved from disparate origins—the Danish seeking refuge from a harsh winter climate and Californians embracing a temperate one—both find a place in Eichler’s houses. And as Eichler’s designs find a new generation of homeowners, modernism wholeheartedly chugs along into the 21st century.

Norman Foster breaks ground on his expansion for Florida’s Norton Museum of Art

Commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Norton Museum of Art in Palm Beach, British architect Norman Foster was on site to see his expansion break ground. The new development, called "The New Norton," will see further galleries added along with visitor facilities all within the "original axial layout of the Museum." In what will be his third project in Florida, Foster has laid the foundations at West Palm Beach for further growth, with the aim of the museum to become a leading cultural institution in the Sunshine State. "The new extension of the museum represents an exciting opportunity to place the reinvigorated Norton at the heart of Florida’s cultural life and to establish its international presence, allowing more people to enjoy the museum’s very special collection," said Foster in a press release. A simple, all-white stone facade and minimalist form stays true to the aesthetic of the 1941 original by New York's Marion Sims Wyeth, where a subtle Art Deco style creates a central courtyard. Later developments meant this original axial configuration, on which the building was based, was lost. Foster's master plan dutifully restores Wyeth's symmetry, adding a sense of clarity to the site. In the process, Foster has explored varying topological arrangements to provide a flexible space able that will now be able to attract a much wider local and international audience. Room for further expansion can be seen via the provision of infrastructure that will facilitate of two more exhibition wings being built on the eastern end of the building. "Creating new event and visitor spaces that will transform the museum into the social heart of the community; as well as increasing the gallery and exhibition spaces, to engage with a wider audience," Foster added. Three double height pavilions will now act as the museum's entrance, countering the low-rise galleries and while merging with the three-storey Nessel Wing. Within these pavilions will be a "state-of-the-art auditorium," Grand Hall, which "will be the new social heart for the local community." Also included is a shop, event space, education center, and restaurant that can operate independently from the museum. These spaces will all be coalesced underneath a canopy. Within the vicinity will be an open public space that will be used as a live performance space and venue for "Art After Dark," an evening show hosted by the museum. Spencer de Grey, co-head of design at Foster + Partners, said, “this groundbreaking ceremony marks the moment where the process that began five years ago with the masterplan finally comes to realisation. Our approach at the Norton has been to make art more accessible by dissolving boundaries – whether that is between the building and landscape or art and the viewer.”

Desert X to bring the art fair circuit to Coachella Valley

File under “X.” A new happening is coming to California’s high desert. Slated to open in February 2017, Desert X is “three-month site-specific international contemporary art exhibition,” aka, an arid art event timed to align with Palm Spring’s Modernism Week as well as the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Writer and curator Neville Wakefield, known for curating site-specific works, will serve as inaugural artistic director. It’s promised that his knack for engaging alternative spaces will be on view as artists install in non-traditional spaces—one might expect landscape interventions a la High Desert Test Sites in Joshua Tree—as well as more conventional settings such as the Palm Springs Art Museum, a late modern design by architect E. Stewart Williams and A. Quincy Jones’ midcentury Sunnylands Center & Gardens, renovated by Frederick Fisher and Partners in 2012. “The desert has long exercised its fascination over the minds of artists, architects, musicians, writers and other explorers of landscape and soul,” noted Wakefield. He sets a high bar for the commissioned art works, asking that they simultaneously reflect the ideals and politics of the contemporary art world and respond to the desert context. The press release suggests that the pieces will “amplify and cast a gimlet eye on the geographies, ethnic/social and historical/geologic layers that exist in the southern California desert, while also looking to major movements in contemporary art world-wide.” The exact hows and whos of Desert X remain a vast and unknowable mystery, to borrow the evocative language of the press materials. “The landscape of harsh desert, high mountains, lush golf courses and a vanishing sea, holds a rich history and maintains mythical proportions in the narrative of the American West—one that includes ancient Indian tribes, prospectors, pioneers, and cowboys,” explained Susan Davis, Desert X founder and board president. “We see Desert X as unique in shining a spotlight on the rich preexisting architectural, natural and cultural legacies of the area, while offering the public a way to explore, activate and interrogate current, timely and historic issues through contemporary, creative practices.” However, Desert X’s board is well connected to the regional, national, and international arts organizations, including major arts institutions, such as Whitney Museum of American Art, the Park Avenue Armory Conservancy, the New Museum, the Hammer Museum, the Serpentine Galleries, and Creative Time. The truth is out there: Wakefield will share his vision and plans for the inaugural exhibition on January 29, 2016 as part of the Art Los Angeles Contemporary 2016.

Desert Modernism in Palm Springs cleared for National Register of Historic Places

Given that Palm Springs is a destination for sun-soaked desert modernism, it’s surprising to learn that a number of structures by the area’s best-known architects are not protected. That changed earlier this month when the California State Historical Resources Commission voted to nominate ten buildings by Albert Frey, including Palm Springs City Hall and the iconic Frey House II, as well as the Town & Country Center in Palm Springs designed by Paul R. Williams and A. Quincy Jones for the National Register of Historic Places. The vote was a milestone in preservation efforts in Palm Springs, a city that’s recently seen parts of its architectural history bulldozed for new developments. Recently midcentury modern Spa Resort Casino complex, noted for its concrete-vaulted entry colonnade and designed by William Cody, Donald Wexler, Richard Harrison, and Phillip Koenig, was demolished in the face of preservationist opposition. The Desert Sun reported that the National Register placements are moving forward despite opposition by two owners: The Mount San Jacinto Winter Park Authority, which oversees Frey’s Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, and Town & Country Center owners Wessman Development. The Tramway owners cite potential development restrictions down the line as their challenge to the nomination. John Wessman’s objections stem from a larger architectural and urban issue: the redevelopment of central Palm Springs and the fact that the Palm Springs City Council city rejected a Historic Site Preservation Board recommendation to list the Town & Country Center as a Class I Historic Site. As The Desert Sun noted:
Wessman argues that the building is a poor example of mid-century architecture and is problematic to lease due to its awkward layout, low ceilings and other deficiencies. The building also stands in the way of a proposed new street for the area that would form an east-west axis connecting the Palm Springs Art Museum with other areas like the Palm Springs Convention Center.
Writing for AN in 2011, Tom Stoelker reported that the museum's relationship to the Town & Country Center is "tricky."

There is the opportunity to connect the museum to tourists and residents, expand within the new complex, and gain visibility—literally—from blocks away. On the other hand, they’ll likely incur the wrath of Palm Spring’s vigilant preservationist community. “We are very interested in working with the city and Wessman, but we are by no means endorsing the destruction of Town and Country,” said museum spokesperson Bob Bogard. “The museum is very interested in an east-west corridor.”

The complete list of nominated Frey buildings are: Kocher-Samson Building (1934), Frey and A. Lawrence Kocher Sieroty House (1946) Loewy House (1946-47) Carey-Pirozzi House (1946) Palm Springs City Hall (1952) Fire Station #1 (1957), Frey and Robson Chambers Frey House II (1964) Tramway Valley Station (1963) Tramway Gas Station and Visitors Center (1965) North Shore Yacht Club (1959)