Just Listed: A Walter White Architectural Gem in South Palm Desert

Welcome to Ralph Haverkate’s Real Estate Blog, Specializing in Mid-Century Modern Homes

Just Listed:  Architectural Gem in South Palm Desert by California Modern Inventor, Industrial Designer and Architect Walter White www.73271Buckboard.com

During the 1950s and 60s when many architects and developers first came to the desert, the area’s unique terrain, climate and rugged beauty provided exciting challenges as well as new vision for a generation of modernist thinkers.  Some gained fame and fortune in the desert; their many contributions are clearly visible in tract and custom developments, public and community projects throughout the area.

Others, such as California Modernist Walter S. White, created only a few precious gems that are still quietly tucked away in quality neighborhoods, just beginning to receive the recognition they deserve.

One of White’s unique homes, built in 1958 in the Silver Spur residential enclave at 73221 Buckboard Trail, overlooking Palm Desert, is now on the market.

Architectural block, glass walls that create a compelling indoor/outdoor relationship, interior floating walls and clerestory windows are a Walter White signature.  The home’s authentic mosaic bath tiles and pebble stone entry have been lovingly restored.  The newer pebble tech salt-water pool and spa are surrounded by spacious lawns, open patio areas and custom decorative block screen.

The two bedroom, two bath, 1,500 square foot home is situated on a generous 15,600 square foot lot with plenty of space to add on behind the double garage.

An architect, inventor and industrial designer, White was an innovator specializing in premium houses, passive solar energy and steel structures for more than 60 years in southern California and Colorado Springs, Colorado (http://findarticles.com).  His patented inventions include the hyperbolic paraboloid roof structure (1966), also known as the saddle roof (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saddle_roof) — it’s shaped like a Pringle potato chip –and the heat exchanger window, patented in 1975.

White’s inventions and architectural work are documented in the Architecture and Design Collection, University Art Museum at UC Santa Barbara (www.arthistory.ucsb.edu), with some 60 pieces documenting this beautiful south Palm Desert home now on the market.

During his lifetime, White’s work appeared in Arts and Architecture Magazine, the National Geographic, Better Homes and Gardens, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Energy News Digest and more.

In his early years, he worked in the Los Angeles offices of Harwell Hamilton Harris and Rudolph Schindler, later with Leopold Fisher and briefly for desert iconoclast Albert Frey.  He was invited by Frank Lloyd Wright to intern at Taliesin West.

One home in Colorado Springs, known as the Ventanas House (ventanas is Spanish for windows), (www.huffingtonpost.com2010/06/16/ventanas-house), is attributed White as a protégé of Wright’s.  The house displays two of White’s innovations: pivotal windows capable of heat exchange, and the hyperbolic paraboloid roof system.

The outside perimeter of this house is all glass. Every spring and fall the windows are pivoted around their vertical axis to position the solar glass panes either toward the inside or outside, to heat or cool the house as necessary.  Ventanas House is also constructed of steel beams anchored in concrete.  The roof is carried by the steel beams so that there are no supporting interior walls on the upper level.

From the 1960s,White worked in Colorado developing various inventions and patents, passive solar designs and self-sufficient homes, returning to California in the 1980s. Known for his independence and lack of pretension, White refused to sit for his State of California architectural license examination until the early 1990s, then in his mid-seventies.  Up until that time, the State of California required he write “Not an Architect” on his plans and designs, one reason, perhaps, that White’s designs have gone  under-recognized in California.

Premium, self-sufficient, solar heated homes and buildings, steel construction, the environment and ecology were a driving passion for White all of his profession life, according to his obituary in the Colorado Springs Newspaper, April, 2002 (http://findarticles.com).  He was 85 when he passed away in East Lansing, Michigan, survived by his second wife Pamela Whitney Haines, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Several other White designed homes are in the South Palm Desert area and listed in the City of Palm Desert’s Art and Architecture City Guide Map (www.palm-desert.org/arts-culture).  Download for a self guided tour.

Pamela Bieri

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *