Nestled into the side of the San Jacinto mountains – with views across the Coachella valley – is Frey House II, designed by architect Albert Frey. Palm Springs Modernism Week presents an opportunity to explore the house, which was Frey's second home in the town. It is compact – approximately 800 sq ft – and very private, with a curved pool and patio sunk into the rocky surroundings. The 45 minute tour, hosted by Palm Springs Art Museum’s Architecture and Design Council, aims to afford a sensitive insight into the architect and his architecture. Interested to find out more about Frey? A talk titled ‘Albert Frey’s Architecture: Technology and Nature in Harmony’, given by Sidney Williams, Palm Springs Art Museum’s founding curator of architecture and design, will explore Frey’s responses to nature in the context of his drawings, photography and videos of the desert environment, surveying how his creative studies informed his architecture.
Around the houses
Jump in your convertible and tap the first address of the ‘Framing Spaces Home Tour’ into your sat-nav. New to the schedule for 2018, this self-guided driving tour offers guests the chance to discover some of Palm Springs’ best-preserved mid-century modern homes, with unique interiors that ‘accentuate the art of desert living’ and boast incredible views. Starting at the Swatt | Miers Architects-designed Palm Springs Animal Shelter and then moving from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, the tour will take approximately two hours. Pictured here, the modernist home, casita, art studio and gallery designed by Architect Jim Cioffi, and built by builder David Johnston.
The fashion of finance
A beacon of civic mid-century moderism at the heart of Palm Springs is the Bank of America building, designed by Victor Gruen Associates and Rudy Baumfield (it was known as the City National Bank when it completed in 1959). Located on South Palm Canyon Drive, the building’s bold blue curved form was inspired by the shape of Le Corbusier’s Notre Dame du Haut chapel in Ronchamp, born of the booming Commercial Modern movement of the 1950s and 1960s that allowed architects to explore modernism on a larger, public scale. Fashion meets finance in a talk that will explore the movers and shakers behind the commercial scene of Palm Springs, and the architectural gems that serve the town as banks and financial institutions. The talk will also discuss buildings in Palm Springs by architects E Stewart Williams and Larry Lapham.
Moroccan modern cont.
The modernist home is like a riad: its 10ft high, custom-carved double entry doors open into a paradise of smooth levels, clean lines and colourful interiors. Its white outer wall, that encloses a pool, garden and terrace, creates a cool cocoon of privacy with added decorative moments such as medallion cutouts and metal screens.
A returning favourite to the programme allows visitors to peek over the gates and hedges of houses in the exclusive neighbourhoods of Palm Springs. The tour, which weaves down the city’s main arteries and smaller streets, lasts approximately two-and-a-half hours, with highlights including the exploration of the mid-century ‘leisure lifestyle’ communities in South Palm Springs. Another sunset bus tour named ‘Illuminated Modern’ runs in the evenings, the local architecture illuminated with colourful lighting and projections.
A new feature for the 2018 Modernism Week preview includes a tour of a newly renovated home that combines modernism with Moroccan style. The original house, designed by architect Hal Lacy and built in 1975, has been renovated by DeeAnn McCoy and Jackie Thomas of Thomboy Properties. The pair have injected the colourful and luxurious interiors with hints of North African design.
The Palm Springs Preservation Foundation lies at the heart of what the Palm Springs Modernism Week works towards: bringing education and awareness of the town's modernist architecture to a wider public. For 2018, Palm Springs Preservation Foundation board member Gary Johns will present a lecture titled ‘Lost, Saved & Endangered: Modernist Architecture in Palm Springs’, which, with the help of vintage photographs and anecdotes, traces the activities of the non-profit Foundation. Pictured here, the Kaufmann House – designed by Richard Neutra and completed in 1946.
For 17 years, the Palm Springs Modernism Show & Sale has seen exhibitors from the US and Europe showing vintage furniture and lighting, including art, jewellery, textiles and clothing. New to the programme in 2018 is the Palm Springs Modern Design Expo, which will showcase modern design and technology for the home – from building materials, to appliances and unique mid-century style pieces.
As well as architecture, Palm Springs Modernism Week celebrates classic cars, giving residents the opportunity to shine their bonnets and show off their wheels. The 2018 programme offers a talk titled ‘Then & Now, Designing Women at General Motors’, presented by Susan Skarsgard, design manager at the GM Design Archive & Special Collections. The event opens up insights into the history of trailblazing women designers from the 1940s to the present, their unique stories revealing the essential roles women have played at General Motors in the fields of automotive and industrial design.
Numerous neighbourhood tours will give visitors access to the various communities of Palm Springs: from ‘Stars and Star-chitects in Deepwell’ – a walking tour of the Deepwell neighbourhood featuring houses designed by E Stewart Williams, Donald Wexler and Hugh Kaptur, among others – to the ‘Golden-Era Hollywood Homes in Old Las Palmas’ tour, which leads visitors around a historic neighbourhood first developed in the 1920s and where numerous celebrities have been residents (Elizabeth Taylor, Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Judy Garland and Dinah Shore among them). Pictured here, the Palm Springs City Hall, designed by Albert Frey and opened in 1952.
At dusk, the architecture of Palm Springs takes on a new life – and so do the classic cars that reveal themselves on the cul-de-sacs and the driveways of mid-century homes. The Modernism Week Vintage Car Show on 19 February will present over 50 fine specimens of vintage restored and original American and European cars dating from the 1940s to the 1970s.
Palm Springs Modernism Week 2018 will see the world premiere of the film Frank Sinatra in Palm Springs – The Place He Called Home, in addition to a programme of films curated in collaboration with the American Documentary Film Festival exploring architecture and design (including the screening of a new work about Albert Frey by Jake Gorst and Design on Screen). Frank Sinatra’s house Twin Palms, designed by E Stewart Williams, pictured here, will be open to explore as part of the tour ‘Frank Sinatra’s Neighborhood: The Movie Colony’. This area was developed in the 1930s and became known as a destination for Hollywood celebrities, with Sinatra moving in in the 1950s.
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Harriet Thorpe is a writer, journalist and editor covering architecture, design and culture, with particular interest in sustainability, 20th-century architecture and community. After studying History of Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and Journalism at City University in London, she developed her interest in architecture working at Wallpaper* magazine and today contributes to Wallpaper*, The World of Interiors and Icon magazine, amongst other titles. She is author of The Sustainable City (2022, Hoxton Mini Press), a book about sustainable architecture in London, and the Modern Cambridge Map (2023, Blue Crow Media), a map of 20th-century architecture in Cambridge, the city where she grew up.
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