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Exploring Palm Springs Architecture

midcentury architecture

Palm Springs – An Architectural Masterpiece

By Barbara Beckley

If you admire architecture – and who doesn’t – it’s time to break out of your four walls – and open the door to Palm Springs!

Plan an escape to architecture that’s light years from ordinary, yet easily close to home.

Share the unbridled creativity of the master architects, who — inspired by Palm Springs’ sweeping views, and a movie star or two – designed structures that are as futuristic now as when they were built in the mid-20th century.

Doors – in powder blue, pink, yellow! Glass, glass and more glass! Textured brick walls embracing open-air living spaces and gleaming pools. High-beamed ceilings and sunken floors. Nothing was off limits.

women in front of orange door

Where to begin? Anywhere! Landmark architecture is everywhere in Palm Springs. It’s the first thing to greet you and the last to say goodbye. By car, it’s the high-flying gas station designed by Albert Frey and Robson C. Chambers in 1965 and now the Palm Springs Visitor Center. By air, it’s the out-of-this-world Palm Springs International Airport terminal imagined by Donald Wexler in 1965.

palm springs visitor center

Homes, inns, boutiques, museums, commercial buildings, restaurants. Palm Springs surrounds you with the best of the best – designed by the top architects of the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s: Richard Neutra, John Lautner, Wexler, Albert Frey, William F. Cody, John Porter Clark, E. Stewart Williams, Hugh Kaptur, William Krisel.

Double-dip for the Best Experience!  

Upon arrival, enjoy one – or more – of the Palm Springs mid-century modern architecture guided drive-by tours with companies such as Palm Springs Mod Squad (martini-making is included on The Martini & Mid-Century Architecture Tour). The owner-guides know the inside scoop – and gossip — on the architects, their buildings and the original, often celebrity, owners.

Also pick up A Map of Modern Palm Springs at the Palm Springs Visitors Center (and a closer look at this Frey stunner) for do-it-yourself exploration on the following days. The map leads to 75 mid-century marvels and Palm Springs abundant architecturally significant neighborhoods.

Must-sees include Old Las Palmas, boasting icons including the 1962 Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway and rows of “Swiss Miss” Alexander beauties. Twin Palms, a break-through housing “tract,” featuring 90 smaller (designed for regular folks) equally stunning Alexanders by Krisel. And Racquet Club Estates, home to Wexler’s seven break-through 1961 Steel Houses (they’re mostly glass).

For a deeper understanding visit the Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center (in a killer 1960 Williams former bank building). Its sister, the Palm Springs Art Museum, is another Williams wow – from 1974. The museum offers the only tours that regularly go inside legendary homes like the 1964 Frey House II. Designed as his personal residence, it’s basically an amazing glass rectangle enclosing a hillside rock!

palm springs architecture museum

Live the Retro Moment!

Don’t stop there! Overnight in an authentic mid-century inn or small hotel. You’ll find dozens from the 1957 Orbit In and 1951 Holiday House, both designed by Herbert W. Burns, to the 1947 Cody-designed Del Marcos Hotel.

Sip a craft cocktail in the same space as the 1953 Don the Beachcomber restaurant – at Bootlegger Tiki. The original tiki torches still stand guard. Shop behind Frey’s 1960s glass walls at the Trina Turk/Mr. Turk Boutique.

Heck, you can even bank in retro glory. Chase Palm Springs is a 1961Williams’ design and Bank of America is architect Rudy Baumfield’s 1959 take on France’s avant garde 1954 Ronchamp chapel.

Given all this, enthusiasts might compare Palm Springs to an “architectural theme attraction.” In a most sophisticated and upbeat way. It’s as if these visionary architects united to create a showplace for their work — which they did, albeit unknowingly.

“Mid-Century Modern Land?” This may be going too far. But it’s kind of true… You be the judge — when you return to see all you missed this time.

bank of america

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https://www.distractify.com/p/dont-worry-darling-filming-locations “Don’t Worry Darling” Filmed in Palm Springs Palm Springs filming locations. By Randy Garner Don’t Worry Darling is a new psychological thriller film that takes place in a 1950’s fictional California town called Victory. Official Trailer https://youtu.be/FgmnKsED-jU Why Palm Springs? The location plays a role in telling the story. While the neighborhood you see looks too picturesque to be real, in does, in fact, exist in real life. It’s not a tame and controlled conservative suburban life. Victory is a spectacular place full of opulence. It depicts something of a secret society in America, so it doesn’t represent traditional 1950s America or its values. As such, the production team descended upon Palm Springs, the longtime playground of the Hollywood elite, to create their desert utopia. A land of ever-present sunshine, blue skies and midcentury architecture galore, the area proved the quintessential backdrop for the storyline. The Storyline The Victory Corporation is building a city called Victory. It is meant to be a suburban utopia complete with sprawling greenbelts, a clubhouse, a sparkling pool and even an onsite boutique. Victory residents will want for nothing and have little reason to every leave. It is the one place to stay and be safe. The storyline follows Alice (portrayed by Florence Pugh) and Jack (played by Harry Styles), who are a married couple with a troublesome relationship. They just moved to Victory, a company town created by and paid for by Jack’s new employer, Frank (played by Chris Pine). While Jack and his colleagues go to work on the “Victory Project”, their wives are left to enjoy the beauty and luxury of their community. Here’s a look at some more specific Palm Springs filming locations in Don’t Worry Darling. The Kaufmann House The Kaufmann House was used was for the home of Victory Corporation founder, Frank, portrayed by Chris Pine. The home is fragile and extremely valuable, so much care had to be take to ensure nothing was damaged. This included bubble wrapping portions of the home and having docents in every room. Department store owner Edgar Kaufmann hired architect Richard Neutra to design a desert home for his family. A decade earlier, Frank Lloyd Wright had built Fallingwater for Mr. Kaufmann. But Kaufmann, having seen Taliesin West, thought that Wright didn’t understand desert design and chose Neutra instead. The home turned out so well, that when Wright saw it, he admitted to that is was beautiful (uncharacteristic of him). The building remains the most famous in Palm Springs in terms of international recognition. The flat roof, steel frame, and glass walls embody one prominent version of Modernism by using sharp, clean, lines and contrasting them to the rugged slopes of Mt. San Jacinto as a backdrop. When photographed by Julius Shulman, the Kaufmann House became an iconic image of modern architecture. The north wing is the guest’s quarters, separated from the rest of the house. The secluded west wing is the service wing. It would be purchased by Joseph and Nelda Linsk. She was the glamorous woman wearing yellow depicted in legendary photographer Slim Aaron’s iconic photograph highlighting the good life in Palm Springs, dubbed “Poolside Gossip.” In 1968, Eugene and Francis Klein, owners of the San Diego Chargers, purchased it. Then in 1973, Barry Manilow purchased the property and owned it until 1993. Beth and Brent Harris become the new owners and were eager to restore the property.They found a home once originally open and light-filled now dense and dark thanks to 2,200 square feet of additions that turned courtyards into interior spaces. The iconic upstairs room visible from the street, an open-air deck that really is one of the house's main features, had its views of mountains and palm trees blocked by air-conditioning compressors. Linsk addition, designed by William Cody, was compatible and relatively seamless, but removed the glass corridor to the master bedroom and drastically reduced the amount of light to the interior. Modernist furnishings selected by Neutra were replaced with those chosen by prominent Palm Springs interior designer Arthur Elrod. The Harris’s dismantled the crumbling fireplaces and numbering each stone for reassembly. To repair gashes in the walls of Utah sandstone, the firm convinced the original quarry in Utah to return to a long-closed portion of its site so the color and texture of the new stone would match that of the old. To find a source for mica, a crystalline sand which workers applied to the house's exterior to provide a subtle, starry-night glow, the architects had to work with the U.S. Bureau of Mines. Can I Visit? The Kaufmann House is privately owned and not available for tours or a rental. However, you can take a peek of the home by driving by 470 West Vista Chino. Canyon View Estates This is where Alice and Jack live in the film. Their residence was on a circular cul-de-sac with their neighbors’ houses facing inwards on the perimeter. For filming at this location, every driveway had to be cleared for blocks and blocks of non-period elements. This affected the daily routine for hundreds of people and property owners. Canyon View Estates was designed by Dan Palmer and William Krisel. These local architects also designed Ocotillo Lodge, Las Palmas Estates, Kings Point and Racquet Club Estates. The “House of Tomorrow” was designed by Krisel for Robert Alexander and his wife Helen. They made it their personal residence and lived in it until their premature death in a plane crash in 1965. The house later gained fame as the honeymoon home of Elvis and Priscilla Presley. The design of these quaint one-story duplex-style condominiums offered floor-to-ceiling windows, and characteristic Palm Springs geometric stonework. It included post-and-beam construction, open floor plans in which the living room, dining room and kitchen flow together. Built in six stages in the 1960s by developer Roy Fey, it has a utopian neighborhood feel, with a shared pool, spa and green space. It includes 180 units with attached carports. Can I Visit? Properties in Canyon View Estates are privately owned and few are available as a vacation rental. However, the neighborhood is not gated, so grab a cruiser bike and explore. Palm Springs City Hall The Palm Springs City Hall was shown briefly in the film. It is centrally located and just steps away from the Palm Springs International Airport, another beautiful midcentury modern style building. Palm Springs City Hall was one of Clark, Frey and Chambers’ most important public buildings, built between 1952 and 1957. Although a collaborative effort with the local architectural firm of Williams and Williams, the building’s initial phase was primarily the design work of John Porter Clark and Albert Frey. An unusual detail of the council chamber is its corner treatment consisting of projecting concrete blocks cut at a diagonal at every other paired row, which allows the blocks to cast light and shadow. Albert Frey was a leading early architect to Palm Springs and left a large design footprint on the city. His own residence, Frey House II, is also an architecturally significant building as was willed to the Palm Springs Art Museum upon his death. It is perched above Palm Springs with sweeping views and is available for tours through the museum. Can I Visit? Palm Springs City Hall is a popular spot on Palm Springs’ midcentury modern design tours, but visitors are also welcome to walk around and take photos. It is located at 3200 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way. Palm Springs Visitor Center Look for the Palm Springs Visitor Center, which was also shown briefly in the film. Like City Hall, it was also designed by architect Albert Frey. In 1965, it began as an Esso gas station situated in North Palm Springs. With a swooping and wing-shaped roof, it immediately captures the attention of visitors as they arrive in the city. In the 1990s, the building was converted into an art gallery, and subsequently taken over by the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism.

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