Tamarisk Rancho in Rancho Mirage has Significant Mid-Century Modern Architecture

70470 Tamarisk Ln Tamarisk Rancho, Rancho Mirage

Located next to Tamarisk Country Club you will find a well-desired community, Tamarisk Rancho, which is divided into two separate parts featuring each 16 Mid-Century Modern homes.  The homes are built along grassy green belts with a 45 foot long pool in the center inviting for a swim or just to relax while admiring the beautiful views to many date palms and fruit trees giving it a feel of living in an oasis.  Tamarisk Rancho hosted many parties in the 50th attended by Barbara Sinatra, Groucho Marx and many other stars from Hollywood and was advertised back then as being one of the greatest places in the Palm Springs area. Continue reading “Tamarisk Rancho in Rancho Mirage has Significant Mid-Century Modern Architecture”

Great Mid-Century Modern Areas in the Palm Springs Valley Part II

Sandpiper Palm Desert
Sandpiper Palm Desert


Sandpiper has the distinction of being the oldest residential development in Palm Desert. Architect William Krisel designed Sandpiper in the 1960’s. The homes are Mid-Century Modern in design. His inspiration came from Frank Lloyd Wright. He offered brightly lit homes that were well designed along with lovely landscaping and quiet private views. The whole property has 18 “pods.” Each has its own lovely swimming pool and there are 6 buildings within the “pod” and each contains two one-level homes. Sandpiper is a convenient walk or stroll to groceries, coffee shops, restaurants and shopping on El Paseo Drive

Sandpiper home prices range from $250,000 to $500,000+.


Continue reading “Great Mid-Century Modern Areas in the Palm Springs Valley Part II”

What is Mid-Century Modern?

Wexler Roof
Roof and wall detail of a Wexler Steel House. Photo by Greg Felsen

The community of Palm Springs, California is home to one of the highest concentrations of Mid-Century Modern architecture in the world, making our community a famous destination for aficionados of all things modern. In fact, each February visitors flock from all over the world to celebrate this design style during our world-renowned Modernism Week, which offers events ranging from architecture tours to art exhibitions, swanky parties to film lectures, and much more. Let’s take a look back at the history of Mid-Century Modern architecture in Palm Springs and how we’ve earned this prestigious reputation.

Starting in the 1920’s, Hollywood’s elite found that Palm Springs was the ideal location to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city, yet was close enough to get back to the studios quickly if needed – just a two-hour drive. They and other affluent elite would turn Palm Springs into a private oasis of custom homes designed to integrate seamlessly with the beautiful desert landscape and outstanding Southern California climate. Later, during the 50’s and 60’s, architects and builders would experiment with these early designs, taking the new aesthetic into mass production by using a few basic floor plans and several roofline choices. The Alexander Construction Company, for example, would use these plans to build several entire neighborhoods. The development of more than 2,200 homes in this style would effectively double the size of Palm Springs at the time. Continue reading “What is Mid-Century Modern?”

Walter S. White, One of the Great Palm Springs Area Architects

Photo: George Gutenberg

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.

Walter S. White (1917-2002), Paulette Johnson house, Palm Desert, CA, 1958, preliminary design showing the unrealized hypar roof. Image courtesy of Architecture and Design Collection, Art Design & Architecture Museum, UC Santa Barbara. © UC Regents.
Walter S. White (1917-2002), Paulette Johnson house, Palm Desert, CA, 1958, preliminary design showing the unrealized hypar roof.
Image courtesy of Architecture and Design Collection, Art Design & Architecture Museum, UC Santa Barbara. © UC Regents.

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”

Modernism Week 2014

Modernism Week 2016

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.

Modernism Week 2014 Retro Martini Party
Modernism Week 2014
Retro Martini Party


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

Continue reading “Modernism Week 2014”

George and Robert Alexander – Builders of Modernism in Palm Springs

Palmer & Krisel Twin Palms tractr home. Photo by Julius Shulman. Getty Museum
Palmer & Krisel Twin Palms tract home. Photo by Julius Shulman. Getty Museum archives.
Alexander Builders in Palm Springs
Alexander Builders in Palm Springs

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”

John Lautner, Architect of the Elrod House

Modern Architect John Lautner's Elrod House in Palm Springs, CA
John Lautner’s Elrod House in Palm Springs, CA
Architect John Lautner in Palm Springs, CA
Architect John Lautner in Palm Springs, CA

John Lautner apprenticed with Frank Lloyd Wright in his early career. He had no appreciation of the cool severe geometry of his midcentury minimalist peers. He spent his life as an iconoclast. John Lautner was overlooked and miscast by his critics. Many of his best-known design projects such as the Googie Coffee shop on Sunset Boulevard have been criticized as Atomic Age or Hollywood ketch.

John Lautner was born in 1911 in Marquett Michigan. He worked under the direction of Frank Lloyd Wright from 1933 – 1939. John Lautner began his private practice in 1946 in Los Angeles where he boldly experimented with new industrial processes. He would call this his search to answer total basic human needs, physical as well as emotional in shelter.

John Lautner was fascinated with new shapes and structures, but this had nothing to do with the Space Age of the future, Hollywood glamour, or virtuoso engineering, but came as a determination to humanize the spaces of the built world and create endlessly varied organic places. To John Lautner this was a profound and serious agenda. Continue reading “John Lautner, Architect of the Elrod House”

William Krisel, Mid Century Modern Architect, 1924-2017

Twin Palms Estates 1957 by Architect William Krisel, Palm Springs
William Krisel, Twin Palms Estates 1957, Photographer Dan Chavkin
William Krisel Architect in Palm Springs
William Krisel Architect in Palm Springs

Renowned architect, William Krisel, has designed tens of thousands of homes throughout his long and extensive career. He was a visionary, and his designs represented the defined and spatial sensibility of the geometric style of the modernist design.

William Krisel was born in Shanghai, China in 1924 where his father was a career diplomat. He learned Mandarin and the local Shanghai dialect as a young boy. When the Japanese invaded China in 1937, his family moved to Beverly Hills. He enlisted in the Army at the beginning of World War II. Because of his knowledge of Chinese he became one of General Joseph Sidwell’s Chinese interpreters. He returned home after the war, and completed his studies at the University of Southern California, where he received his architectural training. He graduated in 1949 and earned his license in 1950. Continue reading “William Krisel, Mid Century Modern Architect, 1924-2017”

Donald Wexler – Iconic Mid Century Modern Architecture 1926-2015

Donald Wexler Steel House in Palm Springs
Donald Wexler Steel House, Palm Springs

Famous Palm Springs Architect

Architects Donald Wexler and Lance O'Donnell
Architects Donald Wexler and Lance         O’Donnell in Palm Springs

Donald Wexler practiced architecture during what he calls the “golden age” of California architecture from the immediate postwar years through the 1970s. This was a time when architects enjoyed considerable freedom to employ new materials and technologies in their search for functionally beautiful architecture.

The extremes of the desert climate forced Wexler to develop a sustainable architecture, which was not only successful functionally, but achieved a timeless aesthetic appeal. During a career that spanned almost six decades, he designed numerous houses, condominium complexes, as well as banks, office parks and schools.

Donald Wexler moved to Palm Springs in early 1953 to work with William Cody, a high-living socialite with a sense for solid design. He had intended to only stay about six months, but like many people, Donald Wexler fell hard for the Coachella Valley immediately upon arriving in Palm Springs!! After living here for six months “I didn’t want to live any where else.”

Donald Wexler lived and was educated in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and graduated from the University of Minneapolis. He also did a tour in the Navy in World War II. He still considered himself a mid-westerner.

Donald Wexler House in Palm Springs
Donald Wexler House in Palm Springs

Donald Wexler is about logic and efficiency. His architectural designed buildings fit together tightly, like machine parts. Nothing seems out of place and his details rarely distract from the whole design. Donald Wexler’s approach dates back many decades when architecture and design was supposed to be part of research and good thinking.

The Alexander houses that Donald Wexler designed almost four decades ago in North Palm Springs feature the “folded” metal roof that is his most famous motif design. It epitomizes the no-nonsense straightforward work of Donald Wexler. His designs are considered elegant, innovative, and very aware of climate.

Donald Wexler Steel House in Palm Springs
Donald Wexler Steel House in Palm Springs

Donald Wexler’s buildings have a quiet intelligence for human beings. His classic designs include El Rancho Vista Estates (1960), Alexander steel houses (1962) Dinah Shore House (1964), Palm Springs Airport (1966), plus many dozens more houses, commercial buildings, and schools. Many of them were built of prefab steel which was very innovative. He is thought of as being very detail-oriented, and his designs are very well thought out.

Steel and Shade Architecture

Donald Wexler considers steel, glass, and concretes the most appropriate materials for desert buildings, because they are inorganic according to him. They can take a beating of natural materials and do not require a lot of maintenance. The Alexander’s in North Palm Springs are perhaps the best-known example of Donald Wexler’s preference for inorganic construction materials.

Although, through his long career, which spanned the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, he always listened to his clients’ needs but he never compromised. Donald Wexler is described as being relaxed, pleasant, and open-minded. He believes these decades were the golden age of architecture before we had so many code restrictions on buildings.

Perhaps Donald Wexler’s legacy is still more remarkable because of the constraints he set for himself: To remain a small office and to build almost entirely in the Coachella Valley.

Donald Wexler's latest design in Palm Springs
Donald Wexler’s latest design in Palm Springs

Donald Wexler was disappointed that some of his buildings have been altered without sensitivity to his designs (these are houses that he will no longer enter). Donald Wexlerwas pleased about his career, particularly for the time when Palm Springs was a frontier of modernist building. In his words, “the buildings in the desert have stood up very well the only regret is that I am growing too old”

Heidi O”Neal

The Six Most Important Features of A Mid Century Modern Home

36467 Sandsal

Important Features of a Mid Century Modern Home

The mid 50’s brought an amazing era of architectural development in the Palm Springs Area. Desert Modernism was born and the term Mid Century Modern architecture was how it was termed. Mid Century Modern homes became very popular and “cool” and there was a high demand for this classic California desert style!!  Mid Century Modern homes in Palm Springs are best characterized by some of the following features:

1) Dramatic Roof lines.

There were many roof styles available for the Mid Century Modern home at the time, but most notable were the following: Continue reading “The Six Most Important Features of A Mid Century Modern Home”