The Desert Sun earlier this month reported a decision by City Council, on advice of City Staff, to formally object to the Historical Society of Palm Desert (HSPD) submission for the nomination of the Miles C. Bates House to the National Register of Historic Places. The general concern was that the City would lose statutory control of the property to the federal designation.
A specific concern was heard that a national designation would tie the hands of the City should a future owner decide the structure prevented the land’s highest and best use, and wish it demolished. This is not the case. According to 36CFR1.60.2, “Listing of private property on the National Register does not prohibit under Federal law or regulation any actions which may otherwise be taken by the property owner with respect to the property.” If it is an income producing property that has received federal tax preservation incentives, other rules apply. Continue reading “The Miles C. Bates House – The Fog of War?”
Our last newsletter covered the state of this home and the visit by aficionados to view it, organized by the City and the Historical Society of Palm Desert.
It was Front Page news on June 9th in The Desert Sun, reporting the visit by Palm Desert City Councilors of June 7th. The article will help popularize the rescue with the headline “Save the Wave”.
It reports the Historical Society of Palm Desert’s initiative to raise funds to have the house designated a national historic landmark. According to Prof. Welter of UC Santa Barbara, it is “a rare if not sole survivor that recalls the architectural origins of Palm Desert” The architect Walter S. White designed at least 48 homes in Palm Desert. This, the Bates home and those would be of great interest to participants of Modernism Week.
It also reports the downside – it could be purchased and demolished so the land could be used for apartment buildings. The City has no control of what happens to it before or after it is sold as it is not their property, and they do not have the funds to contribute toward designation or restoration. Continue reading “The Miles Bates House – A Progress Report”
Since our last newsletter with Prof. Volker Welter’s commentary on the Miles Bates house (1955) , we were fortunate to participate in a tour of it arranged with the City by Merilee Colton of the Palm Desert Historical Society. Fearing the worst, we were among about twenty, from all points in Southern California, including City staff, able to take advantage of this opportunity last Thursday. Here is the exterior, as original, and as today with two boxy additions on the front in place of the gracefully curved free-standing wall.
Photo Courtesy of the Art, Design and Architecture Museum,
UC Santa Barbara
Existing Condition Photos Courtesy of James Schnepf 2017
City of Palm Desert May Allow Destruction of an Iconic Walter S White
Merilee Colton of the Palm Desert Historical Society advised us that the Walter S White wave-roof home built for Miles Bates in 1954-55, on Santa Rosa Way in Palm Desert is in danger of demolition. The City of Palm Desert, in preparation of disposing of its ownership has had it appraised at a value not much more that its land. The condition of this home is reportedly poor, but restorable. The concern is that the land will be sold without regard to the building and it will be torn down for new construction.
We contacted Professor Volker M. Welter, who has published White’s work, of UC Santa Barbara that holds his archive. Professor Welter gave a presentation on White and his work at Modernism Week, 2016
As we suit up for MW 2017 to learn more about this genre, it might be good to recall that we’ve learned a lot in the past.
One such discovery at MW 2016 was the little-known Mid-Century Modern architect Walter S White who did memorable structures from Palm Springs to Indio, as well as work in Colorado and Los Angeles. He was first introduced to us in a blog by Professor Volker M. Welter, in 2015, who later did a lecture on the architect at MW 2016.
Professor Welter also authored “Projects and Inventions in Architecture”, published by the Art, Design and Architecture, UCSB. This book provides a thorough review of his work and working life with details, background, drawings, locations and photographs. It can be ordered here. Thus the architect has been moved from being little known to well recognized.
Good Architecture markets itself when it gets seen, and the more it is seen, the more marketing it achieves. The trick is in getting it seen, and that means making it visible to the most people in the most ways.
Why is everyone so interested in Mid-Century Modern Architecture? With all of today’s innovation, technology and design, why are we resorting back to designs that originated more than 60 years ago. There are countless stores and websites dedicated to midcentury modern tastes and many architects and developers have embraced this style when building new homes.
Mid-Century Modernism is an architectural design style that generally describes the mid-20th Century developments in modern design, architecture and urban development between the 1920s and 1980s.
Drawings for the Johnson-Hebert Residence by Walter S. White (1917-2002) date to early 1958. By that time, White had perfected his ideas for mid-twentieth century modern desert residences. Typically, he first conceived a roof for without shade, life in the desert was unbearable. Underneath he, second, placed space-defining walls, usually not more than two per room and sometimes extending beyond the roof line in order to mark outdoor living spaces. Third, the remaining sides of the rooms White enclosed with large expanses of glass.
White liked to experiment with the roofs. Curved shapes were a favorite of his; the Bates Residence (1954) in Palm Desert features a wave-like roof, a simple concave curve graces the Alexander Residence (1955) in Palm Springs. By the later 1950s, White was fascinated by hyperbolic paraboloid (hypar) shapes. Formed like a saddle, or a Pringle potato chip, these roofs were self-supporting and offered maximum freedom for the interior arrangements. Continue reading “Walter S. White, One of the Great Palm Springs Area Architects”
Palm Springs in California has made its name over the years, to attract a lot of people from all over the world to the Palm Springs Modernism Week taking place from February 13th till 23rd, 2014. This yearly event celebrates various cool parties, mid-century modern architecture and designs, special touring of homes and other adventures.
In addition to the Bus Tours showing architectural significant homes which runs on a daily basis four times during modernism week, the famous Estate of Annenberg at Sunnylands is open to the public for touring and the Convention Center in Palm Springs is holding the popular Modernism Show. Another event which should not be missed is the Exposition of expanded Prefab Showcase and Modern Living which include:
Modern Mambo! Modernism Week After Dark Opening Night, February 13, 2014
Palm Springs’ great houses for Kaufman, Frey, Sinatra, Elrod, and others are all handsome expressions of the Modern Era. But as custom designs limited to one site and one incarnation, they lack one significant characteristic of Modernism; repeat-ability.
Embedded in Modernism is the ideal of mass production. The repeatable object, each equal in quality, form and use, is the essence of the twentieth century in contrast with handcrafted artifacts of previous centuries. The impact of the democratization of goods, services, and architecture – from cars to movies to billboards to McDonalds – was tremendous. It is the point where the machine and mass production bring Modernism to the mass audience; it happened in Palm Springs when father and son George and Robert Alexander brought architects Dan Palmer and William Krisel from Los Angeles to the Coachella Valley to design the first extensive tract subdivision in Palm Springs. Strikingly Modern with exposed concrete block, butterfly roofs and open plans. Palmer and Krisel’s designs proved pure Modernism would sell in the marketplace. Continue reading “George and Robert Alexander – Builders of Modernism in Palm Springs”