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.
Posts tagged with "Palm Springs":
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.
The Architect’s Newspaper is heading to the desert for the annual Palm Springs Modernism Week. This small city of 45,000 residents was, like other wealthy post-World War II communities including Sarasota, Florida, and New Canaan, Connecticut, fertile ground for modernist architectural experimentation. Palm Springs has perhaps the largest per-capita number of what are now called “midcentury” modern houses, shops, and public facilities, as well as landmarks by Richard Neutra, Albert Frey, John Lautner, and others. These will all be on display during Modernism Week from February 12 to 21, as well as house tours, a John Lautner exhibition at the Palm Springs Art Museum, and an encampment of Airstream trailers. The silver aluminum mobile homes will be huddled around the Ace Hotel and Swim Club—itself a renovated 1965 Howard Johnson’s hotel. It should be a great week!
It's rare that journalists get to live the fabulous life. So when we do, we have to share it with you. Myself and AN contributor Greg Goldin took part in a great media panel on Friday in Palm Springs for the California Preservation Foundation Conference, with co-participants including author Alan Hess, Christopher Hawthorne (LA Times), Martha Groves (LA Times) and Kimberli Meyer (MAK Center). But what we really want to brag about was our dinner that night at Richard Neutra's Kaufmann House; one of the most famous homes in America. The modernist gem sold for $19 million at a Christie's auction last year, only for the sale to fall through shortly after. Thanks to the generosity of the house's owner Beth Harris—one of the conference organizers— we and other attendees spent the evening dining on Pad Thai, wandering the house, and gazing out at the surrounding mountains at sunset. This was no tour. This was experiencing Kaufmann for real. The home was recently renovated by LA firm Marmol Radziner, who spared no expense in returning it to its original state. Meanwhile the owners have increased its lot, which is full of great desert features, so it feels at one with the landscape around it. Harris also entertained us with stories, such as the time she returned home only to find that her mother had welcomed in a tour bus full of European students, having assumed that they had a planned tour. We also learned of the nearby animals, like skunks and bats, that like to hang out and try to take advantage of the home's indoor outdoor features.