Modernism Week: what to see in Palm Springs 2021

Palm Springs Modernism Week is back, ready to inform and regale us with images of dreamy modernist architecture, desert landscapes and legendary, carefree California parties. As a response to the pandemic, the traditional February programme, has been re-worked for the digital realm, dubbed Modernism Week Online Experience, and held between 1 – 28 February 2021. A second segment is coming up in April, dedicated to more physical events. For now, here are our top picks from this year's virtual programme

Southridge glass house exterior, stone steps to the side/front of the building, white interior, furniture and plants inside, black piano to the right, spot light ceiling, patio area with white chairs, blue night sky, surrounding landscape of trees and rocky area
Southridge Glass House.
(Image credit: James Haefner)

Signature Home Tour Video Series

Southridge Glass House lit up at at night, patio area and circle stone fire pit, swimming pool, palm tree trunks, surrounding trees and landscape, blue night sky

Southridge Glass House by William Cody.

(Image credit: James Haefner)

Touring modernist homes is an annual staple at the Palm Springs Modernism Week, and the online expression is no exception. Coming in two installments as a video series, tours this year feature iconic architecture and lesser known gems in various of the city's neighbourhoods. Examples include The Morse Residence (by Hal Levitt, 1961), The Cahuilla Hills House by O’Donnell + Escalante (by Lance O’Donnell, 2009), The Southridge Glass House (by William Cody, 1963), Trina Turk’s Ship of the Desert (by Erle Webster and Adrian Wilson, 1936), and Martyn Lawrence Bullard’s Villa Grigio (by James McNaughton, 1963). 

The 1931 Aluminaire House Comes to Palm Springs

Aluminaire House, front door entrance, glass windows around the top of the building, surrounded by grass and winter time trees, brick building in the distance, blue sky

Aluminaire House.

(Image credit: Michael Schwarting)

A film tells the story of the Aluminaire House, which was designed by celebrated desert modernist Albert Frey and A. Lawrence Kocher. Aluminaire was designed for a 1931 exhibition in New York City and shows clear influences from Frey's time in Paris, as an employee at Le Corbusier's studio. The modernist house has now been moved and found a permanent home on the grounds of the Palm Springs Art Museum. 

‘Best of Modernism' Auction

Chuey House, black and white night time image, narrow swimming pool, reflecting the night lights, patio area with seating leading into the house, balcony to the left side, with view of surrounding landscape

Chuey House.

(Image credit: Julius Shulman)

This year's programme features an online auction of rare and distinctive items, linked to the theme of ‘Modernism'. Online bidding will be open between February 1 – 15 and spans experiences and specialty pieces. Overnight stays at key modernist hotels and homes, a private helicopter tour, signed photographs by iconic photographer Julius Shulman and art by Leo Marmol of Marmol Radziner are among the offerings. Grab your cards and get bidding, from February 1 at 12 p.m. PST.

Hollywood Revisited Online Musical Extravaganza

Smiling female holding out a cape of peacock feathers, wearing a long purple skirt and green and gold jewelled top, green velvet headdress with peacock feathers protruding out of the top, area behind her is la green wall lit up with spotlighting

(Image credit: press)

Palm Springs is well known for its iconic desert modernism, but it's equally famed for attracting the Hollywood elite during the cinema's golden age. Cue parties, cocktails and all manner of extravaganzas. These are reflected in the musical Hollywood Revisited, which sold out three years in a row during Modernism Week. For 2021, the event takes place virtually, continuing to convey the glitz and the glamour Palm Springs has come to become synonymous with. 

Modern New Canaan – Evolution of Design: Bauhaus | Harvard GSD| New Canaan

Brunning House (1936), black and white night image, driveway entrance stone pillars lit up, surrounding trees and landscape, building glows white against the night sky

Brunning House (1936) Chicago History Museum, Heinrich-Blessing Collection

(Image credit: press)

Breaking beyond the geographical boundaries of Palm Springs to explore modernism in America as a whole, this screening takes the audience to New Canaan in Connecticut. This East Coast town became a centre of midcentury modern architecture during the 20th century. The film visits three of New Canaan's most iconic houses and talks to the homeowners who cherish them.

Philip Johnson and the Glass House

Day time image of Phillip Johnson’s Glass House, lawn with gravel pathway leading to the building, surrounding trees and landscape

Phillip Johnson’s Glass House.

(Image credit: Michael Biondo)

Plenty of talks will be broadcast during the Modernism Week in February, including this one, on Philip Johnson's Glass House. Ian Volner, author of the new book, ‘Philip Johnson – A Visual Biography’ and Wallpaper* contributor, is joined by Hilary Lewis, chief curator and creative director of the Glass House. The event includes a tour of the 47-acre compound and new footage of the house.


Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).