Palm Springs Modernism Week 2015: The Coachella valley's mid-century Mecca comes of age
Among the usual roster of envy-inducing home tours and poolside cocktail parties at Palm Springs Modernism Week, a number of other exciting launches and openings were also in the mix this year. The arrival of the new Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center was a particular highlight of the 10-day annual architecture festival. Housed in a former 1960s bank building designed by E. Stewart Williams, the project was overseen by Los Angeles architects Marmol Radziner, whose subtle interventions have ensured a harmonious balance between old and new with original features such as the terrazzo flooring and the movable, anodized aluminum sunscreens all being painstakingly restored.
'It was an amazing and fantastic experience to work on the project,' says architect Leo Marmol. 'Very few cities have stand alone museums committed to architecture and design and the fact that there's one here in Palm Springs indicates the level of interest and commitment and focus on its design history.'
Indeed, interest in the city's architectural heritage has been building since the mid 90s when Palm Springs' many midcentury marvels were rediscovered thanks to early refurbishment projects like Marmol Radziner's 1993 restoration of Richard Neutra's 1947 Kaufmann house. The project sparked national and international interest and kick started a period of rejuvenation that is still going strong over 20-years later - now spearheaded by the city's Modernism Week, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. 'It was just a forgotten little community with boarded-up, dusty old buildings and an economy that was in a shambles,' remembers Marmol. 'It's been amazing to watch the transition.'
With Modernism Week now generating an estimated $17 million in income each year, the city is attracting a new generation of influencers and creatives who are choosing to invest their time and money in Palm Spring's vibrant hospitality industry. Within the past year Toronto-born photographer and entrepreneur Jaime Kowal has launched a trio of ventures including The Amado - a collection of 5 boutique vacation rental units - a coffee shop and a Tiki bar all in Palm Springs' uptown design district and geared towards a younger generation of design-savvy visitor.
'This really is the new face of Palm Springs and it was sorely needed,' says Kowal of the city's new wave of stylish hospitality options. The upswing is down to a combination of factors she tells us: 'The economy has picked up in past few years but real estate is still much more affordable here than it is in LA. Festivals like Coachella are bringing in a new audience and hotels like the Ace are attracting creatives from LA, Las Vegas and San Diego. All of these things are building blocks that over time have culturally, socially and economically shaped the place that we're in now.' With an AC Marriott hotel slated to open in 2017, a Kimpton Hotel in Spring 2016 and the highly anticipated 'Arrive' hotel - a collaboration between developer John Wessmen and architect Chris Pardo - launching later this year, it would seem that Palm Springs' architectural investment is finally paying off in spades.