New York City is losing the 1931 Aluminaire House and its relocating to Palm Spring, California. The aluminum alloy and steel structure was created by the architect Albert Frey and A. Lawrence Kocher, managing editor of Architecture Record, and was commissioned by the Architecture League for the Allied Arts and Industry exhibition. In many ways the metal structure is pure New York, a temporary installation first built in the Grand Central Palace on Lexington Avenue between 46th and 47th streets (replaced in 1967 by a 47-floor skyscraper called 245 Park Avenue). The house has been unloved by the city since it was taken down. It stood for some years at the Islip campus of the New York Institute of Technology and a proposal to site in Sunnyside Gardens, Queens was sadly rejected by local residents and since that time has been stored in boxes. Aluminaire Foundation officials think it will need about $600,000 to bring it to Palm Springs and have it erected on a local site. A first effort at fundraising netted $150,00 and now, this weekend, as part of the city's Modernism Week, a second event will be staged at the Frey- (and Robson C. Chambers) designed Tramway Gas Station to raise funds for the foundation. Regardless of New York's apparent lack of desire to keep the structure, it makes some sense to bring it to the dry desert; the city loves modern architecture and Frey lived in the desert city for most of his life. New York, say goodbye to the Aluminaire!
Posts tagged with "Palm Springs":
Architects may not get much respect in most American cities, but in Palm Spring, California they're stars! Today Richard Neutra who designed the city's famous Miller House in 1937 and, ten years later, the Kaufmann House will have a star dedicated in his honor on the sidewalk of Palm Canyon Drive just in front of the Palm Springs Architecture Museum. The Austrian emigre will join other architects on the sidewalk including: Albert Frey, Donald Wexler, E. Stewart Williams (who designed the city's architecture museum), William Krisel, and just next to the star of his friend the photographer Julius Shulman. All of these figures were important contributors to the significant architecture culture of this desert city and here they are not only honored but revered.
Palm Springs Modernism Week is in its tenth year of celebrating the city's architectural masterpieces and tracts of mid-century modern houses. The Architects Newspaper is, for the sixth year, a media sponsor of Modernism Week, and we are here in the Mojave desert reporting on its numerous events. One of the highlights is the Sunday discussion and round table, "Why Isn’t the 1947 Neutra Kaufmann House on the National Register?" This working panel hosted by the California State Historic Resources Commission’s (SHRC) Modernism Committee will look at the Kaufmann house and other case studies in order to challenge "the integrity and standards used to evaluate National Register nominations" and ask whether they need to change when evaluating "the material realities of mid-century modern structures; materials that were often mass-produced, vulnerable, and easily replaced." The panel will include: architectural historian and California State Historic Resources Commission Beth Edwards Harris; well-known historian Alan Hess; Michigan preservationists Brian Conway, Katie Horak, Christine Lazzaretto. I am also on the panel and will discuss the research and remaking of the Lever Houses curtain wall. There are still a few tickets available for the event. Why Isn’t the 1947 Neutra Kaufmann House on the National Register? Hilton Palm Springs, Horizon Ballroom 400 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs, CA 92262 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM, $12
The Architect's Newspaper will be headed to California next week for Palm Springs Modernism Week. It's the sixth year we have served as a media sponsor and we always look forward to the week on the desert as not simply time out from the New York winter but a chance to visit the classic modern houses in the Mojave oasis. In addition, we always make a point to awl through the Palm Springs Modernism Show & Sale where they sell the most incredible modern furniture and objects. There are always a few things affordable even for an architecture editor, but if not it's so much fun to look and fantasize about how these design objects would look in a New York loft. This is the 15th year of the show and sale, and this must make it the longest running modern event like it in the country. This year it will feature 85 of the most prestigious dealers from across the United States and Europe. The show and sale takes place at Palm Springs Convention Center and runs from February 13th to the 16th, 2015.
As preservationists steam, demolition teams working in the desert heat have begun to tear down Donald Wexler's famed Spa Hotel in downtown Palm Springs. The hotel was closed in early June by its owners, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. To add insult to injury, the demolition has begun with the hotel's most famous element: it's elegant, concrete-vaulted colonnade. "We are outraged and upset. We've been trying to provide information to the tribe on how this hotel could be successfully restored and renovated. They mention communication about everything. But it wasn't until I drove by that we saw that the demolition had started," Palm Springs Modern Committee (PS MODCOM) Executive Director Nickie McLaughlin told AN. The Spa Bathhouse and Hotel, acknowledged as one of the city's most significant buildings, was designed in 1955 by a collaboration of elite Palm Springs architects including not just Wexler, but William Cody, Richard Harrison, and Phillip Koenig. McLaughlin confirmed that the colonnade's destruction had been completed on September 3. McLaughlin said PS MODCOM had been talking with Agua Caliente since July 14, and were given the impression that the tribe had no plans on the table for immediate demolition. The assumed lack of plans also allowed the tribe to circumvent CEQA rules, she said. According to the Desert Sun, because the demolition takes place on tribal land it is a "tribal action," and not subject to any state or federal environmental protections. "I think they're not true to their word and I think this is a very poor display of how they operate," said McLaughlin, who added that PS MODCOM and the tribe had discussed the possibility of restoring the existing building (with the tribe receiving various tax credits) and constructing new facilities to the north. Another organization, the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation, encouraged members and interested parties to send over 1,000 letters to the tribe urging them to reconsider the demolition. "It’s really nauseating," said Wexler's son Brian Wexler. "It’s so disappointing that one of the most iconic structures of Palm Springs has been lost." He said his brother Gary was driving by when demolition started and sounded the alarm. It is unclear what Agua Caliente plans to build on the site. At this point calls to the tribe had not been returned. "We are in the planning stages of creating a vision for this key location in downtown Palm Springs," Agua Caliente Tribal Chairman Jeff L. Grubbe said, in a statement. "Our next steps include demolition of existing structures as well as taking the necessary steps to protect and preserve the hot mineral spring."
A few years ago, Realtor Monique Lombardelli fell in love with the work of Joseph Eichler, the developer whose architect-designed tract homes proliferated throughout Northern and Southern California in the decades following World War II. “[The Eichler homes] provide such a great environment, more of a relaxing, open feel,” she said. Lombardelli’s passion led her to produce a documentary on Eichler’s legacy, which in turn piqued her clients’ interest. “I started getting a lot of clients who wanted one, and there wasn’t anything to show them,” said Lombardelli. “Then I sold one that was a remodel, and everyone said, ‘I want an Eichler.’” Lombardelli wondered: was it possible to build new, Eichler-inspired homes based on the developer’s original plans? She describes the process of uncovering the plans as a “treasure hunt” during which she felt like Sherlock Holmes—following evidence from one archive to the next, trying to convince the archivists that her project was worthwhile. “It’s funny because all the people at these different archives, they said, ‘These plans, most of them have been thrown out, nobody cares. Why do you want them?’” recalled Lombardelli. She eventually found luck at the archives at UC Berkeley and Stantec. “Stantec has everything, it was a mecca, a nirvana for Eichler,” said Lombardelli. “I walked in there and it was like being in heaven.” Lombardelli purchased rights to everything the archives hold, which so far totals 65 plans. (The archives are so dense, said Lombardelli, that they are likely to uncover more plans as time goes on.) To turn her dream of building “new” Eichlers into a reality, Lombardelli needed a developer. That’s where Troy Kudlac of Palm Springs’ KUD Properties comes in. “I gave up a couple of times,” said Lombardelli, citing inflated estimates. “Modernism should not be that expensive—that’s what Joe [Eichler] said originally, that modernism should be experienced by everybody.” Kudlac agrees. He plans to build one or two Eichler-inspired homes in Palm Springs on spec. If all goes well, he’ll develop a small tract of about ten homes. “With something this kind of cutting edge and revolutionary, I’ve got to prove the concept,” said Kudlac. KUD Properties will submit plans to the city of Palm Springs by the end of March. They hope to break ground by mid-summer. In the meantime, Lombardelli is fielding inquiries from developers in Tampa, North Carolina, Colorado, New Mexico, Brazil, London, and elsewhere. She’s resisted requests to alter the plans, except where modern building codes require it. “I think we really need to respect what we’ve been brought up with, what our history is,” she said. “There’s a soul in each of these houses that really resonates with me. To duplicate that is very difficult, but I think if you’re duplicating that to make them live on, we have to keep them the same."
If you've never seen Richard Neutra's Kaufmann House or Albert Frey's Palm Springs City Hall, now is your chance. This weekend Docomomo is hosing Palm Springs architecture tours, which will show off some of the city's most famous architecture. The tours, which also include visits to the homes of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and Cary Grant, are part of Docomomo's US Tour Day, which offers similar events across the country, in 22 states. These includes tours of the Farnsworth House in Illinois, Eero Saarinen's TWA Terminal in New York, and buildings by Felix Candela in Houston.
Last weekend at Palm Springs Modernism Week we stumbled upon a treasure for architecture fans. The Palm Springs Art Museum is renovating E. Stewart Williams' 1960 Santa Fe Federal Savings and Loan building, turning it into the future home of the Edward Harris Center for Architecture and Design. Williams' International Style bank, featuring floating slabs, floor to ceiling glazing, and ultra thin columns, will contain exhibit space, public program areas, offices, an archival study center and a museum store (located in the former bank vault). On its lower level it will contain a 2,700 square foot area for the museum's collection. The center is scheduled to open in Fall 2013, says the museum. We can't wait! Historic pictures and renderings of the future space after the jump.
We just came across The Accidental Sea, a fascinating documentary about California's bewildering Salton Sea, an artificial lake created by flooding the Colorado River southeast of Palm Springs. It quickly turned into a resort and then (after subsequent environmental degradation) into a ghost town. The film by Ransom Riggs explores the history of the site and looks at the eeriness there now, from rusted out cars to abandoned spas and homes. Makes you wonder about the tenuousness of our civilization and makes you want to explore California's other modern ghost towns like California City, an 80,000 acre development once intended to be the third largest city in the state (it's population is now just over 8,000 people).
Ok, get ready for the strangest, most audacious project you've seen in a long time. Our friends at Architizer just tipped us off to BOOM, a $250 million community being developed in Rancho Mirage, outside of Palm Springs, that includes some pretty inventive, or (maybe more like it) wacky designs by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, LOT-EK, J.Mayer H., and seven more firms. The ultra-expressive project, set to begin construction next year, will include 300 residences built in eight neighborhoods, each designed by a different firm (important note: the developer, Matthias Hollwich, is a co-founder of Architizer). It will also include an entertainment complex, a boutique hotel, and a wellness center. According to Curbed LA, the community was "originally conceived with gay people in mind," but welcomes all people and all ages. Diller Scofidio's contribution is a large marketplace with a light swooping roof canopy and a central outdoor plaza (should be toasty in the summertime).The schemes seem to take the dominant mid-century Modern aesthetic of Palm Springs and twist it into a computer-enabled jumble of extreme formal gymnastics. So without further ado, hold on to your seatbelts and check out these pictures of BOOM:
We are just back from three sunny, margarita-and-architecture-filled days in Palm Springs. This small desert city was barely a mirage until the arrival of Liberace, Frank Sinatra (you can rent his house for $1,900 a night), and air-conditioning helped make it a popular resort in the 1950s. But the clear warm desert air (and wealthy patrons) seemed to lend itself to visionary modern architecture. And so its residential side streets were soon dotted with luxurious domestic masterpieces by Richard Neutra, Albert Frey, John Lautner, E. Stewart Williams, and others. This influence—or perhaps it was just the spirit of the 1950s and ’60s—made modernism the predominant house style (I want one) for the city at least until Taco Bell replicas supplanted it in the 1980s. But now midcentury modernism has made a furious comeback, at least as a symbol (or cult?) of the city, and it is celebrated every year at Palm Springs Modernism Week. The fifth annual gathering just ended, and it was a huge success, according to Jacques Caussin, chair of the event, who says that in Palm Springs, “The appetite for anything modern, whether architecture or design, is insatiable.” In addition to tours of midcentury masterpieces, the week featured a gathering of vintage Airstream trailers (I want one of these too), and the Palm Springs Art Museum opened Between Earth and Heaven: The Architecture of John Lautner, an exhibition on the California architect’s career that previously wowed critics at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Curated by Frank Escher, the administrator of the Lautner Archives, and Nicholas Ohlsberg, the show is a revelation. Beautifully installed with eye-level drawings on wooden plinths, the exhibit also includes large models meant to allow heads to enter; you peer out to see videotapes of the houses’ actual views. The exhibit (and its excellent accompanying Rizzoli catalogue) begins with Lautner’s early Wisconsin Log Cabin, and moves on to his internship with Frank Lloyd Wright and earliest experimental houses, persuasively making a case for the architect’s unique brilliance as a residential and commercial designer. The exhibit is on view through May 23.
Famed California modernist William Krisel is getting his day in the sun tomorrow. A documentary about his life and career, called William Krisel, Architect, is premiering as part of Palm Springs Modernism week at the Camelot Theater. The 86 minute film, directed by Jake Gorst, tracks, as the above preview suggests, a 60-year career in which Krisel built over 40,000 housing units and countless other buildings. And read our next issue for a Q+A with the designer, in which he talks about his latest ventures, his career, and his very favorite topic: the ailing state of the architecture profession.