Kaufmann Desert House

What to See at Modernism Week 2023

Here’s the skinny on another big, fat Modernism Week.

Lisa Marie Hart Current Digital, Home & Design

Kaufmann Desert House

Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann Desert House, 1946
PHOTOGRAPH BY JULIUS SHULMAN © J. PAUL GETTY TRUST. GETTY RESEARCH INSTITUTE, LOS ANGELES (2)

 

The more modernism, the more fun. That’s the feeling that thousands of architecture and design enthusiasts have during Modernism Week, the cultural juggernaut that packs more than 350 happenings into 11 vivacious days, from Feb. 16 to 26. Perusing the program, it’s clear that our blue skies are the limit when deciding which events to attend.

Highlights for the 2023 edition include keynote speaker Thom Mayne (Feb. 18.), who helped found the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), where he coordinates the Design of Cities postgraduate program. A recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, 29 Progressive Architecture Awards, and an AIA Gold Medal, Mayne has taught at several universities, served on the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities under President Obama, and is principal of Morphosis Architects, based in Culver City and New York City. After Mayne’s address at Palm Springs Art Museum, he will mingle with attendees in the sculpture garden.

Shifting to the period preceding the 1960s structures with angled rooflines and clerestory windows, Modernism Week joins the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation in tracing the origins of the midcentury-modern movement to its source in a series of Spanish Colonial Revival–themed events, including tours, talks, and a party.

Modernism Week also presents a rare opportunity to pass through the gates on Southridge Drive and visit several illustrious homes. Once in a mod moon, the homeowners of this intimate community that was pioneered in the early 1960s open their doors to guests. Lautner, Kaptur, and Cody left some of their finest work here, joining significant new builds that together represent the pinnacle of Palm Springs modern living.

Coachella Valley Savings

E. Stewart Williams’ Coachella Valley Savings and Loan No. 2, 1961

Three featured homes revealing local visionaries’ new spins on midcentury bones promise colorful inspiration:

At The Shag House, a classic 1958 pool home, the beloved tiki artist Josh Agle (aka Shag) has transformed every inch to convince visitors they have stepped into a scene from one of this paintings. Much of the original Palmer and Krisel layout designed for the Alexander Construction
Company remains intact, though the breezeway finds fresh purpose as a swank party lounge.

At Yoasis, Grace Home Furnishings blends bold Bohemian and Hollywood Regency styles in a 1965 home that effuses a vacation state of mind. Vintage elements enhance its 4,774 square feet.

Albert Frey House II

Albert Frey’s Frey House II, 1964
COURTESY OF JULIUS SHULMAN © J. PAUL GETTY TRUST. GETTY RESEARCH INSTITUTE, LOS ANGELES (2)

In the Las Palmas neighborhood, Charles Du Bois built Hi-Sun, a mountain-view abode, as a model home by the Alexander Construction Company in 1963. Now owned by the principals of H3K Home+Design, the remodel evokes a resort sensibility with a hint of Hawaiian flair, which was prevalent in the era. 

First-timers eager to soak up some of the main attractions can add the double-decker bus experience, vintage trailer show, and tours of homes once owned by celebrities to their short list. Architectural walking and biking tours, the historic Annenberg Estate at Sunnylands, a classic car show, modern gardens, and curated presentations can also round out the itinerary.

Selective acquisition is another staple, with an indisputable first stop being the Palm Springs Modernism Show, where 90 dealers put their prime wares on shoppable display at the Palm Springs Convention Center. Those in the know attend the Feb. 17 preview reception to claim first dibs on art, furniture, and collectible 20th-century design and return all weekend to continue browsing and buying. There’s also the open-air Modernism Yard Sale on Feb. 26.

Santa Fe Federal Savings

E. Stewart Williams’ Santa Fe Federal Savings (now Palm Springs Art Museum’s Architecture and Design Center), 1961
COURTESY OF MARKUS CANTER

When in Palm Springs, it’s local custom to indulge in the social side of this annual phenomenon. Mingling among the modern-minded set is as easy as securing a ticket, tossing on a playful blazer or swishy caftan, and strolling into one of the nightly parties. Venues include glamorous residences, hotels, and modernist architectural gems.

In addition to these hot-ticket events, many others are free or low cost, though advance reservations may be required.

For more information and to pick up official Modernism Week souvenir merch, visit at CAMP (Community and Meeting Place), located at the Hyatt in downtown Palm Springs, during Modernism Week or go to modernismweek.com.

DEBUT SEASON

Mark your calendar for five new Modernism Week experiences.

1 Frank Sinatra’s 7.5-acre Villa Maggio (Feb. 28) retreat opens to the public for the first time. Tours include the main and guest houses, pool, tennis courts, helipad, and the expansive outdoor entertainment area. A poolside cocktail party (Feb. 27) is set for the day before the tour.

Villa Maggi
COURTESY OF LUXURY PROPERTIES DIRECTOR

2 Palmer and Krisel’s The Ocotillo Lodge (Feb. 18), opened in 1957 as a luxury hotel and later transformed into a private community, welcomes visitors to its first community tour, featuring eight uniquely designed units and the clubhouse — the site of the famed 1960s Candlewood Room, where the Rat Pack wined and dined.

The Ocotillo Lodge
COURTESY OF BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY HOMESERVICES CALIFORNIA PROPERTIES

3 Joshua Tree Retreat Center – Lloyd Wright Historical Walking Tour (Feb. 19 and 20) leads to the largest collection of Lloyd Wright buildings in the world.

lloyd wright

COURTESY OF JOSHUA TREE RETREAT CENTER

4 Desert Lanai 4 (Feb. 19), an intimate condominium community designed by architect Charles Du Bois and featuring his “Swiss Miss” roofline, opens for tours of restored and lovingly designed homes.

Desert Lanai 4

COURTESY OF PALM SPRINGS LIFE ARCHIVES

5 The Villa Alejo (Feb. 18) condominium complex in downtown Palm Springs shows off its impressive concrete brise soleil exterior and much more.

The Villa Alejo

JULIUS SHULMAN © J. PAUL GETTY TRUST. GETTY RESEARCH INSTITUTE, LOS ANGELES (2)