Modernism Week 2019
During Modernism Week (14-24 February), Palm Springs ascends into midcentury mania. Now in its 14th edition, the annual event attracts the arch-literati, glitterati and anyone who likes to party to the desert resort town famous for its modernist structures, palm trees and pools bathed in 354-odd days of sunshine. The 400-event strong programme offers insight into the area’s cultural legacy through tours, talks and cocktail parties.
JW Robinson department store
Designed by Luckman & Pereira and built in 1958, the JW Robinson department store was designated a Class 1 Historic Site by Palm Springs city council in 2013. The building was renovated in 2017 by Cioffi Architects. Easily identifiable by its modernist pavilion style appearance, and built on land purchased from Palm Springs pioneer Pearl McManus, this retail building was designed by architect William Pereira (under his then-partnership with Charles Luckman) in 1958 and has since been voted a Class 1 Historic Site.
333 S Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92262, US
Hugh Kaptur is one of Palm Springs’ most prolific architects and part of a group of modernists who defined Desert Modernism. His house for Hollywood actor Steve McQueen features modernist elements, such as clean, open-plan interiors and a floating staircase. Another of his most well-known commissions includes the William Holden house (built in 1956) in which the low-rise, clean-lined forms of which echo the vast landscapes of the Coachella Valley desert. Photography: Mark Davidson
L’Horizon hotel was designed by William Cody in 1952 as a series of low-lying modernist bungalows. Cody came to Palm Springs in 1945 in search of fame and architectural fortune. He had been lured by the formidable Nellie Coffman – ‘The Mother of Palm Springs’ – to extend the Desert Inn, the sanatorium she founded in 1909 and which evolved throughout the century. Read more about the legacy of William Cody here.
1050 E Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92264, US
The Palm Springs Historical Society presents a tour of the Movie Colony, a tranquil neighbourhood developed in the 1930s and 40s, which was home to stars such as as Cary Grant, Dinah Shore, Van Johnson, Tony Curtis, Gloria Swanson, and Jack Benny. Frank Sinatra moved into Twin Palms in the 1950s, a home located at the heart of the neighbourhood – bringing the life and soul of the party with him. The tour reveals many more residences of Hollywood’s royalty – one of the estates was even named the Desert Royal Palace because of the propensity of royal guests from Europe and Hollywood stars.
Frey House II
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.
Modernism Week Show and Sale
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.
277 N Avenida Caballeros, Palm Springs, CA 92262, USA; palmspringsmodernism.com
Palm Springs Art Museum
Palm Springs Art Musuem is going through a self-induced metamorphosis, transforming from ‘a desert museum to a cultural hub’. Take a break from architecture and design with the Museum’s lively exhibition programme, which include a couple of high-hitting photography shows.
300 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92262 United States; psmuseum.org
Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway
From 1966-67, Elvis and Priscilla Presley lived in Palm Springs at the Honeymoon Hideaway, nicknamed after the couple visited the house for their honeymoon in May 1967. The story goes that Elvis lifted Priscilla over the threshold Hollywood style. Perhaps not surprisingly, their daughter Lisa Marie Presley was born nine months later... The House of Tomorrow – its original nickname – was built in 1960 by well-known developer Robert Alexander for his wife, Helene. The house was their dream home, built in four circles on three levels with four bedrooms and five bathrooms.
1350 Ladera Cir, Palm Springs, CA 92262, US
Bank of America
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.
Bank of America; 588 S Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92264, US
Raymond Loewy commissioned architect Albert Frey to design his Palm Springs home in 1946 on a rocky site overlooking Palm Springs. It was here that the industrial designer, developed the concepts of Air Force One, the Studebaker Avanti automobile, and the Exxon logo. Loewy influenced the design of transportation across America including the Greyhound bus and even NASA’s space capsules, as well as household items.
Elizabeth Taylor’s house
Located in the Old Las Palmas neighbourhood which developed in the late 1920s and 30s, Elizabeth Taylor’s former house is set across 1.5 acres and is now a popular wedding venue. The area is full of the homes of Hollywood stars including Kirk Douglas, Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Judy Garland and Dinah Shore.
Hermosa Place, Palm Springs, CA, USA; modernismweek.com
Palm Springs Visitor Center
Tramway Gas Station, a former Enco services in Palm Springs is a somewhat unlikely midcentury modern structural icon. So named because of its location at the base of the Tramway Road, it was intended to be the first thing visitors to the area saw, when approaching from Route 111. Its visibility (especially thanks to its distinctive, cantileverd canopy, added in 1965 and designed by Albert Frey and Robson C Chambers) makes it the prime spot for a visitor centre. Now, it’s a calling card of modernist design, often studied as a perfect example, and frequently copied since.
2901 North Palm Canyon, Palm Springs, CA, USA; visitpalmsprings.com