Woods + Dangaran's 2021 midcentury modern-inspired house in Desert Palisades in Palm Springs.
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY PALM SPRINGS MODERN COMMITTEE
While the rest of the world was partying like it was 1999 (because it was), a group of 10 Palm Springs preservationists was gathering for its first meeting at Courtney Newman’s furnishings store, ModernWay, in Palm Springs. Their nonprofit organization, Palm Springs Modern Committee, aka PS ModCom, had serious business to discuss: saving the 1955 Albert Frey-designed Fire Station No. 1 from demolition to make way for a parking garage. Their success was magnified by the station’s eventual Class 1 Historic Site designation approved by the Palm Springs City Council.
Four years later, in 2003, PS ModCom presented its first Annual Preservation Awards to celebrate local midcentury modern architecture and the individuals devoted to safeguarding it.
The group now has an email list of more than 1,800 subscribers, with Newman serving as board president. Board members and executive director Nickie McLaughlin recommend honorees for the annual awards, which are presented at a swinging dinner-and-drinks event that unofficially kicks off the modernism season. Proceeds help fund college scholarships, community outreach, publication of desert modernism books, and the retainer of an attorney to assist with research and political advocacy on behalf of preservation.
This year’s awards presentation, which took place Oct. 8 at Palm Springs Art Museum, recognized “owners who had the foresight to not only preserve but also to restore, renovate, rehabilitate, reimagine, or adaptively reuse/repurpose an existing building,” McLaughlin says. Collectively, the honorees “preserve our architectural legacy” and raise awareness of significant properties.
And the winners are …
Lifetime Achievement Award in Memoriam
RICHARD A. HARRISON, AIA
Presented to the architect’s daughter, Kim Harrison
“It’s been a long time coming,” Newman says of recognizing Richard “Rick” Harrison, who worked alongside William F. Cody and Donald Wexler, two architects whose names more frequently rise to the surface. “While playing an important role, he was somewhat under the radar,” McLaughlin says. “He has a large body of work across the Coachella Valley that we feel needs to be brought to the public’s attention.” The golf course homes at Seven Lakes Country Club are his design. “He was always the second man, kind of an unsung hero, yet his work encompasses almost the whole history of midcentury modern architecture in Palm Springs. We’re excitedly going through the archives his daughter has. So, we have a good story to tell.”
Residential Preservation Award
STEVEN KEYLON AND JOHN DE LA ROSA
Slayman Residence, architectural designer Herbert W. Burns, 1950
Steven Keylon and John de la Rosa’s Deepwell Estates home has been a longtime labor of love. “The award honors someone who goes through every fine detail to make their residence as original as it can be,” Newman says. “In other words, as it was the day it was moved into in 1951.” For six years, Keylon has doted over the particulars, starting with the original paint colors. Highlights include vintage pink steel kitchen cabinets, pink accent tile (still in its box from 1952), and a shower door manufactured to 1950 specs down to the hardware and flutaragraphs.
RESIDENTIAL RENOVATION AWARD
CARLOS SERRAO AND MONICA MAY
For the Chambers Residence, architect Robson C. Chambers with Albert Frey, 1946; additions 1950 and 1956
Carlos Serrao and Monica May, artists behind advertising campaigns for Nike, Adidas, and Reebok, enjoy their stewardship of a notable architect’s home. Robson C. Chambers designed his modest abode in Warm Sands Park with Albert Frey five years after graduating from University of Southern California. Landing in the desert in 1946 to work for his future partners, Frey and John Porter Clark, Chambers sourced low-cost materials, including Flexboard, corrugated aluminum, and pumice block to design an affordable core on which he could expand. Intact architectural elements factored into the 2020 restoration, and the couple recently applied for a Class 1 Historic designation. Wearing a custom front door that mirrors the 1946 original, the flat-roof home stands as one of the earliest surviving examples of desert modernism.
Residential Renovation Award
For the Les Pool House, developer Claude Hicks, 1958
Riffing on a historic home, legendary guitarist Brian Ray enlisted Staci Munic Interiors to bring a rustic-goes-rock-and-roll timbre to his Little Tuscany hideaway. The two-bedroom home reflects its owner’s vibe without neglecting its roots. “Though the home is more of a builder’s home, not by a well-known architect, it’s really well done,” Newman says. “With the guitar-shaped pool, he certainly brought his own personality to the house. Yet he kept it true to the midcentury.” For more than 45 years, Ray has played lead, rhythm, and bass guitar for icons such as Etta James and Paul McCartney. The renovated 1950s ranch makes a fitting home for his collection of vintage electric guitars, many dating to the midcentury era.
Excellence in New Design
BRETT WOODS AND JOE DANGARAN
Private residence, Woods + Dangaran, 2021
A category to recognize new design influenced by midcentury modern tenets joined the awards in 2005. Architecture that furthers the lineage of “The Palm Springs School” while laying the groundwork for new perspectives, materials, and technology is epitomized in the Desert Palisades enclave. There, on gently sloping hills among the sun-baked boulders, Los Angeles-based architecture firm Woods + Dangaran placed, ever-so-lightly, a 3,800-square-foot home above a natural arroyo. Exterior panels of patinated brass will change as they weather, and burnished blocks of CMU (concrete masonry unit) harken desert tones and textures. Glass makes a friend of every view, whether fields of rock, the pool and outdoor living areas, or another part of the home.
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