Four architects on the influence of Palm Springs
Many contemporary architects working today have been inspired by the modernist architecture of Palm Springs. Modernism Week brings them back to the desert town for a series of events that focus on the work of contemporary architects from restorations and renovations, to obsessions and design expressions
Meet four architects whose work has been influenced by Palm Springs midcentury modernism including EYRC, Greg Warner, Marmol Radziner and Richard Beard. Find out more during Modernism Week in Palm Springs running 13 – 23 February.
’California modernism is a style of architecture with certain key elements which form an integral part of our architectural philosophy,’ says Steven Ehrlich and Takashi Yanai of LA based studio EYRC (Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney architects). ‘It takes advantage of the climate, landscape, and the open-air environment. It blurs the boundaries between inside and out. At the same time, it’s about allowing people to express their own lifestyle. There’s a certain casual element to it, and a simplicity – it’s not about ornament and extravagance, but about simplifying form and space.’
They picked out the Ridge Mountain House in Palm Springs, pictured above, as an example of this: ’12ft high sliding glass doors can pocket and slide into a steel frame to completely “disappear.” Inside space seamlessly fuses with the outdoor deck, pool and landscape beyond. In addition, we take a more nuanced approach to resonate with the site. All of the materials have been selected to harmonize with the desert setting, including rusted steel, cast-in-place concrete and flagstone floors.’ During Modernism Week, Ehrlich and Yanai will discuss this approach to designing residential architecture connected to its place and inhabitants, which they’ve encapsulated into a book titled Outside In: New California Modernism, which they will be signing at the event.
Greg Warner of San Francisco-based Walker Warner Architects will be at Modernism Week talking about the influences of mid-century architect Vladimir Ossipoff on his career and work. Warner grew up on Hawaii’s Big Island attending Waimea’s Hawaii Preparatory Academy school which was designed by Ossipoff. Little did he know that the building would embed itself into his subconscious, and become a key reference in his future designs as an architect. At Walker Warner, the studio has developed an approach based on sensitivity to context, and honouring craft and natural materials, which Warner will unpack in connection to Ossipoff’s work.
The Kua Bay Residence, pictured above, is a key reference point for the talk. Located on the rugged Hawaiian coastline, the house was built to blend into the landscape and create a sequenced transition from mountain to sea. Simple, unadorned materials include basalt, wood and steel used for both inside and out. Architecture and nature meet across the design. A living roof has been renaturalised with lava rock and native grasses, and an infinity-edge pool merges living with the ocean and sky.
Founded in 1989 by architects Leo Marmol and Ron Radziner, architecture firm Marmol Radziner is behind the restoration and renovation of some of Palm Springs’ most iconic houses such as the Kaufmann House and the Raymond Loewy House. Palm Springs’ midcentury modernism has also been a major influence on their contemporary work. The architects cite influential elements such as ‘the intrinsic connection to the landscape, through the use of expansive glass walls and windows, deep overhangs, open floor plans and materials that extend to the outside, and the pairing of modern and traditional building materials, in a colour palette inspired by the landscape.’ A case in point is the Mandeville Canyon Residence, pictured above, which is surrounded by sycamores, ever-present through the house due to expanses of glazing.
During Modernism Week, John Mcllwee, owner of the Los Angeles Garcia House designed by Palm Springs’ John Lautner and built in 1962, will be discussing his experience working with Marmol Radziner on the restoration and renovation of the house. ‘People don’t look at this as just a house, because you can easily get bigger places with more square footage and more land. They see it as a piece of art – a weird jewel box, sitting on stilts, high up above the whole canyon,’ he says.
Architect Richard Beard is a San Francisco based architect with projects across Northern California including Napa County, Caramel Valley, Sonoma, and recently in Palm Springs. ‘Mid-century modern homes uniquely embrace a connection to the outdoors in a way not seen before 1950,’ says Beard. During Modernism Week, he will be discussing his work on the McIntyre house on the San Francisco Peninsula designed by prominent Bay Area mid-century architect, Joseph Esherick, who was a pioneer of what would later be called Bay Area Regionalism. Built in 1959, the house was unusual because of its double height atrium space that was a living room that once included two ficuses and a Brazilian silk floss tree. ’The McIntyre house is in many ways a premier example of the evolution of classic mid-century modern principals, uniquely applied to the San Francisco Peninsula setting. It had huge expanses of glass opening to a composed, Halprin-designed landscape, to which it was intrinsically connected.’
Beard’s task was to reimagine the house for a modern family, while preserving the original spirit of the house. ‘As part of the renovation we developed a series of slot views into the atrium, that gave connection without losing the original containment. Esherick’s use of vertical proportion, long a hallmark of his compositions, was here, and the use of the tall, vertical rough sawn painted wood interior boards was really effective, particularly with the skylights. So, we knew that was something to illustrate and bring forward.’ §