Each February, Palm Springs Modernism Week showcases mid-20th-century architecture and design.
Renowned as the “Mecca of Modernism,” the desert’s built environment lures aficionados from near and far. Examples of the area’s modernist anthology exist everywhere, so grab a fellow enthusiast and head out for a self-guided treasure hunt of midcentury jewels.
Here are several sites to get you started.
Palm Springs Visitors Center
2901 N. Palm Canyon Drive
Originally a gasoline station, the Palm Springs Visitors Center was designed by modernist Palm Springs architect Albert Frey with Robson Chambers. The site, with its soaring roof, is globally acclaimed and serves as a testament to an era of groundbreaking ideas and extraordinary accomplishment.</p>
Wexler Steel Houses
East Molino Road and North Sunny View Drive
Designed by Palm Springs architect Donald Wexler and built by the George Alexander Construction Co. in the early 1960s, this Palm Springs neighborhood features iconic Steel Case Study Houses. Today, the elegant glass-and-steel homes are the subject of films, books, magazine articles, and exhibitions.
Walter White House
1011 W. Cielo Road (in Little Tuscany Estates)
Sophisticated design and organic materials define this treasure. Architect Walter White designed this outstanding house in 1955 after spending time with legendary Austrian-American architect R.M. Schindler. Note the curved roof, angled glass at back, mitered clerestory windows in the garage, notched steel beam, and lighting.
Uptown Design District
North Palm Canyon Drive (between Tachevah Drive and Alejo Road)
Uptown Palm Springs offers a wealth of midcentury retail and design. Furniture, home accessories, jewelry, and fashions spill onto sidewalks from a network of boutiques offering modern finery.
Fire Station No. 1
277 N. Indian Canyon Drive
Frey and Chamber’s 1955 Fire Station No. 1 on Indian Canyon Drive combines refinement, new thinking and materials, and practicality into a civic building. A flagpole pierces the open corrugated-metal roof, reminiscent, perhaps, of the firehouse pole.
Frey House II
West end, off Tahquitz Canyon Way
Perched 220 feet above the desert floor, the second home of Albert Frey stands out in design and history. Built from aluminum, steel, glass, and concrete block, the house surrounds a granite boulder that divides living spaces. The house was willed to Palm Springs Art Museum on the architect’s death in 1998.
Bank of America
588 S. Palm Canyon Drive
This 1959 sculptural jewel by architect Rudi Baumfeld (Victor Gruen Associates) captivates passers-by with elegant combinations of curved and linear forms, mosaic tiles, and a concrete window screen.
Royal Hawaiian Estates
83 E. Twin Palms Drive (Across from Moorten Botanical Garden)
An island-inspired condominium community designed in 1960 by Donald Wexler and Richard Harrison features carved tikis and stylized apexes on lofty beams.