As part of my recent honeymoon, I visited California's mecca for modernism, Palm Springs. I've never really thought as the desert as beautiful but after visiting this intriguing, innovative place, I've been charmed and allured by the juxtaposition of the natural, raw landscape that has been pierced by pops of colours and cutting-edge design.
As a member of Manchester's modernist society and mid-century obsessive, having the opportunity to see Palm Springs instantly, identifiable architecture, that has influenced so many building and homes, including my own, was one of an unforgettable experience! Below I've detailed a few words about the city's rich history, famous architects and my personal highlights from the Palm Springs mordernist tour.
Palm Springs Architecture History
Palm Springs visionary, a futuristic lanscape of space-age houses, landmarks and buildings, looks as inventive and modern in 2015, as it did 70 years ago. Originally home to the native Agua Caliente Cahuilla Indians , the city began it's evolvement into a tourist destination in 1909 when female entrepreneur, Nellie Coffman opened Palm Springs first resort offering, The Desert Inn. Maximising on the distinct, dry desert climate that offered an alternative winter-sun getaway to America's rich and famous, Palm Springs close promixity to neighbouring Los Angeles allowed for easy access but also privacy, given there was no international airport until 1961.
Inspired by the Dutch De Stijl and German Bauhaus movement, Albert Frey is noted as one the world's leading mid-century architects. Originally from Switzerland and beginning his career in New York, assisting in design of The Museum of Modern Art, Frey moved to Palm Springs in 1938 to collaborate with fellow modern architect John Porter Clark. Together, the pair would shape the visionary of Palm Springs 'modern desert' aesthetic with an abundance of significant buildings including the 'Tramway Gas Station' with it's iconic, flying wedge roof, now a visitor centre for the the city.
Launtner saw the 'purpose of architecture to improve human life'. His vision was to create a variety of timeless, free spaces influenced by the nature that surrounded them. Faced with impossible sites, harsh climates, or both, Lautner time and again invented solutions. One of his finest works, the Elrod House pictured below, originally was ringed with floor-to-ceiling glass outlining the pavilion-like living room, arranged in a zigzagged curtain wall. Shortly after the house was built, a desert sandstorm broke the panes. Launtner reacted with something even more outrageous: He installed two 25-foot-wide hanging glass curtain walls that retract to open up the living room completely to the outside at the touch of a button!
Wexler pioneered the use of steel in his modern design for low-cost residential homes. His work took direction from the desert, maximising the views and outdoor-living space whilst encouraging him to experiment with economic materials such as concrete, glass and his signature steel, reinventing a new-kind of beauty. In addition to creating 'Desert Modern' homes, Wexler also designed the soaring glass-fronted terminal at Palm Springs International Airport as well as the structure of the 'Butterfly Roof' (seen below), that transformed once an unfashionable neighbourhood in the city, now known as the up-market Twin Palm Estate.
Interesting details I snapped whilst on the Palm Springs Modernist Tour.
// Concrete-Chic // Pop-Colour Doors // Symmetrical Screens //
// Minimalist Mailboxes // Typographical House Numbers // Super Star Handles
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