Palm Springs Life Magazine

Desert Canvas

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Palm Springs Life Magazine

 

The architecture we now know as Desert Modern did not come about by chance. The architects who practiced here after World War II were drawn by the climate, the landscape, the features, and the lifestyle. Here, they could make use of interesting material, postwar technologies, and advanced construction techniques to realize their most inventive ideas. The desert was not a blank canvas. To these architects, it was beautiful, challenging, and unique.

John Lautner on the Bob Hope house:
“[T]here isn’t a single really integrated building designed for the desert in Palm Springs. They’re all colonial or Spanish or I don’t know what. They’re just stuck there. They don’t really have anything to do with the desert. So I decided we’d do something that really suited the desert. [T]his circular concrete roof with triangular openings in it and triangular clerestories in it sort of fanned around, so that from the outside and the inside it’s sort of like a desert flower. And then, of course, being concrete it would be right down on the boulders and rocks and become part of the whole scene.”

 

Palm Springs Modern Architecture

Perched above Palm Springs with 180-degree views, the Siva House’s interiors were meant to have an outdoor feel.
Photo by Dan Chavkin

“In Los Angeles, you’re in the hills and your view is down at the ocean, whereas our views are up at the mountains. And we put in overhangs where you have sun exposure. … The desert environment can be friendly but it can also be very dangerous. And, basically, architecture comes down to the bottom line: It’s to provide shelter for human beings whether it be homes or business.” 
Hugh Kaptur

 

Palm Springs Modern Architecture

Donald Wexler’s Steel House No. 1 in the Racquet Club Estates neighborhood. This detail shows his folded plate roof.
Photo by Dan Chavkin

“The seven houses in Palm Springs … are all steel — exterior, walls, roof, some exposed steel inside. But the walls are drywall. Actually, the houses are mostly glass. I saw steel as ideal for the desert. In the desert, steel, concrete, and glass are the only materials to build with. They’re inorganic and they don’t deteriorate in the extreme temperatures we have.”
Donald Wexler

 

Palm Springs Modern Architecture

Located in what is now the Twin Palms neighborhood, this Palmer and Krisel-designed home displays their distinctive butterfly roofline.
Photo by Julius Shulman

“The idea was to create a home that takes advantage of the climate and the topography and the views and the lifestyle of the desert, make it affordable and architecturally significant. … The property was a big, flat piece of desert, covered with tumbleweeds. What did attract me were the mountains with the snowcaps on them. … I have clerestory glass, so you could be in your little house, have privacy, but look out the windows and see palm trees and mountains with snow on top. … I wanted you to see trees and mountaintops and natural vegetation in the desert. I wanted to make the outdoor and indoors merge, so you could enjoy the outdoors but have all the comforts of indoors.”
William Krisel

 

Palm Springs Modern Architecture

E. Stewart Williams did not particularly like designing private homes (He thought commercial work was less “emotional.”), but agreed to do this famous house for his neighbors, William and Marjorie Edris.
Photo by Julius Shulman

“It is a most interesting experience to live in a wild, savage, natural setting, but without losing contact with civilization due to the intellectual milieu of Palm Springs and the presence of visitors from all over the world.  Moreover, the sun, the pure air, and the simple forms of the desert create perfect conditions for architecture.”
Albert Frey

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