Discover the sacred places of Palm Springs during Modernism Week

Discover the sacred places of Palm Springs during Modernism Week

This self-driving tour of mid-century churches around Palm Springs, new to the 2018 programme of Modernism Week events, presents participants the chance to learn about the town’s most interesting church architecture.

Curated by Michael Kunkle, a Palm Springs local with a passion for mid-century modernism and his mother Ruth Ritter, who just moved to Palm Springs from South Carolina this year, the tour is a unique way to explore the town during Modernism Week.

The tour allowed Kunkle and Ritter to combine their knowledge in a creative way; mixing Kunkle’s architectural and design expertise with Ritter’s experience of churches and religion – and it was a way for the pair to spend time together and build Ritter’s new community network in Palm Springs.

‘In addition to the fantastic architecture, we have learned that the church history here in Coachella valley is colourful: Indians, earthquakes, hardships, cooperation, support and inclusion,’ says Kunkle.

First stop on the Sacred Places tour is the First Baptist Church Palm Springs, designed by architect Howard Lapham in 1963, a textured concrete building with a geometric stained glass window. Kunkle’s tour reveals details such as how materials for the church were donated and it was the congregation who worked on its construction. Lapham also designed ‘arguably the most famous Palm Springs nightclub “Chi Chi’” adds Kunkle.

Another impressive structure - this time constructed of poured concrete in thick curved sections, is the Palm Springs United Methodist church, designed by architect Hal Whittemore in 1965. Unique details include the cast metal cross at its spire designed by artist JB Thompson in 1965 and a plaque on the seat where Elvis Presley used to sit.

Other highlights include Albert Frey’s Desert Chapel, built in 1963, where the original phone system can be admired, as well as intricate geometric wood carvings and chandeliers; and a piercing red stained glass window by artist Gabriel Loire at the St Louis Catholic Cathedral City – designed by architect Joseph F Dameron in the 1960s.