Palm Springs Modernism Week Feb. 17-27 Celebrates Culture, Architecture

Palm Springs has long enjoyed international fame as a celebrity haven and world-class vacation destination.

But more than a decade ago, the exacting restoration of the Richard Neutra-designed Kauffman House in Palm Springs sparked renewed interest in Mid-Century Modern architecture, and since fanned the flames of national and international attention.

Palm Springs began attracting a new tourism niche for architecture and design buffs because of the astonishing concentration of significant Mid-Century works by such pioneer builders and architects as Neutra Joseph Eichler,  Albert Frey, E. Stewart Williams, John Porter Clark, Bill Krisel, William Cody, ; John Lautner, Don Wexler, ;A Quincy Jones, and many others.

The sixth annual Palm Springs Modernism Week, February 17 through 27, 2011, celebrates the culture and ideals of modernism, and the architects whose private home commissions, tract home subdivisions, civic and public buildings flourished to the degree that Desert Modern became a genre all its own.

This year, the “week” has expanded with more than 50 events over 11 days. The festival offers a variety of entertaining, educational  and cultural events that include the Modernism Show at the Palm Springs Convention Center where collectors and dealers will find vintage treasures and retro gems.

Architecture tours give aficionados rare opportunities to see residences including the popular Frey House II and Frank Sinatra’s 1947 mid-century home in Twin Palms Estates, designed by E. Stewart Williams with its famous grand piano shaped pool.

A special exhibit, “Steel and Shade: The Architecture of Donald Wexler” honors this notable local architect at the Palm Springs Art Museum.

Take one of the daily double decker bus tours to discover examples of mid-century modern architecture and interior design including the Edris House by E. Stewart Williams and an Alexander Twin Palms “Butterfly” house.

Films and design lectures series by noted authorities and art exhibitions, a vintage travel trailer show and Braniff Airlines exhibit at the Riviera Palm Springs, plus music, food and swanky parties at glamorous properties are all part of the mix.

Many events are free to the public including a festive kick-off celebration in downtown Palm Springs on Thursday, Feb. 17.  For a full schedule of events, tickets and information, go to

Modernism is defined as cultural movement between 1940 and 1970 when art forms, architecture and design dramatically changed to embracing linear, organic and geometric forms with bold, bright colors.  Fueled by the optimism and prosperity of post World War II, Americans embraced the ideas inherent in modernism that human beings can create, improve and reshape the environment through practical experimentation, scientific knowledge and technology.

Desert modernism is a regional approach to International Style inspired by Palm Springs’ sunny skies, warm climate and breathtaking mountains, and by the architects’ bold and creative instinct to incorporate rocks, trees, vistas and other landscape features into the design.

Modern architecture is characterized by open floor plans and nearly invisible transitions from indoor to outdoor spaces through the extensive use of glass, steel and concrete, building elements that became more available in the post-war years.

“Events such as Modernism Week, the Retro Martini event on February 25, and the Alexander Weekend, March 25-27, are great ways to get acquainted with the superb collection of modern homes that we have here in Palm Springs,” said Ralph Haverkate.

“These homes are now recognized for the historic and architectural treasures that they are, it’s no surprise that they are now among the most sought-after properties in the Greater Palm Springs area’s real estate market.”

Pamela Bieri

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