Iconic Miles Bates house in Palm Desert in Danger of Destruction

Miles Bates House in Palm Desert

Miles Bates House in Palm Desert

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

Here are excerpts from his reply to Ms. Colton, also addressed to us.  Continue reading “Iconic Miles Bates house in Palm Desert in Danger of Destruction”

2016 Palm Springs Modernism Week

Modernism Week 2016

2016 Palm Springs Modernism Week is Almost Here! Plan Your Week

If you plan to attend, buy your tickets soon, as the events are being sold out as we speak – about forty as this being typed.

Tickets remain for the popular Frey House II tours that are about half sold out and there is one remaining Modernism Week Signature Home tour.

There are a number of theme Parties left, which may be a good place to start, or with Neighborhood Home Tours where new neighborhoods are to be seen in Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage and Indian Wells.

More exclusive home tours may include a reception: Abernathy Residence, Raymond Lowry House, Smoke Tree Ranch, Frank Sinatra Estate, and The Loewe Estate.

Be sure to check out the Lectures, thirty-nine alone at the Annenberg Theater, some by famous names, on topics ranging from architects to architecture, art, fashion, design and even Cuba.  All look interesting and some are very unique. There are also daily lectures at the MW Camp. Some you will not want to miss.

Check out unique events such as an evening at Hotel Lautner, a retro Pinball Tournament and Student Modernism Projects, which is free, and many more.

If you plan to spend a day or more at MW, you should spend a few hours digging into the Whole MW Program. There is way too much for any one person to see.

If you use don’t mind experimenting, and understand what this is, we have created a Calendar File that will place MW events on your personal calendar. It includes only those events not fully booked at it’s creation.

Click this file to download it:  MW 2016 Events.ics

It will load into your calendar automatically. Go to February.  You will need to view each day by itself to see all the events.  Click each one to get more detail and link to the event and buy ticket pages


All About Mid-Century Modern Architecture

Mid-Century Modern Architecture in Palm Springs
Mid-Century Modern Architecture

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.

Many consider Frank Lloyd Wright’s principal movement of organic architecture combined with the Craftsman (Arts and Crafts) style to be the jumping off point for the aesthetics behind Mid-Century Modern Architecture. Continue reading “All About Mid-Century Modern Architecture”

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”

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”

Palm Springs Modernist Architect, Albert Frey 1903-1998

Modern Architect Albert Frey's Loewy House in Palm Springs
Modern Architect Albert Frey’s Loewy House in Palm Springs, CA
Albert Frey, Palm Springs Architect
Albert Frey, Palm Springs Architect

Albert Frey was a believer in modern architecture, a political and social liberation through affordable machine-made designs. His chosen materials were aluminum, glass, and cables. He eventually used boulders and sands of the desert where he lived.

Albert Frey’s career spanned more than 65 years. He believed in the principle that architecture should make the most of the least. Some of his best known works were the East Coast houses that he designed with Lawrence Kocher in the 1930’s and there were many other notable buildings he created in Palm Springs in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. Continue reading “Palm Springs Modernist Architect, Albert Frey 1903-1998”

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”

Sandpiper Condominium Circles 11 and 12 Designated a Palm Desert Historic District

Sandpiper’s circles are built around pools and green belts amid lush landscaping.

Sandpiper Condominium complex has just become one of Palm Desert’s most significant architectural residential communities.  This past spring, Palm Desert City Council unanimously voted Sandpiper Condominium Circles 11 and 12 – built in 1965 by the renowned architects Palmer & Krisel — as an Historic District.

Sandpiper's circles are built around pools and green belts amid lush landscaping.
Sandpiper’s circles are built around pools and green belts amid lush landscaping.

Palm Springs Preservation Foundation member Jim Harlan authored the nomination with the enthusiastic support of Sandpiper homeowners Barbara and Bernie Cain and Jim West. The process began last December and was successfully given approval this year.

Sandpiper was conceived as a low-density community and designed for maximum privacy and mountain views with pools, spas, a putting green and wide green belts amid lush landscaping.  Located at the west end of now famous El Paseo, today, it is within walking distance to some of the desert’s most trendy restaurants, galleries, shops, and malls.

While all of the buildings within the Sandpiper complex are designed in the modernistic style, they were built over time — from 1958 to 1969 – by different builders so that various circles have different characteristics.  But Circles 11 and 12, consisting of 16 buildings housing 32 units, were determined to “represent the most intact examples of modernist architecture,” according to the Palm Spring Preservation Foundation.


Sandpiper’s architectural features includes a flat roof, expansive use of glass, clerestory windows, and novel uses of then-new concrete screen block and Shadowall, multi-faceted concrete masonry.

In his report, Harlan notes that the complex Circles 11 and 12 are excellent examples of architecture built during the midcentury period with modern methods of construction.  In addition, they are the work of master architects, Palmer & Krisel.

“The architects’ successful site planning, landscape and architectural design create not only a unique but an early example of a multi-unit residential condominium project,” said Harlan in his report.Sandpiper 4

The two sections are a “singularly intact example of the significant modernist architecture for which the Coachella Valley is internationally known.”

Even when it was built, The Sandpiper complex was immediately recognized by the architectural community as an extraordinary effort that combined a sense of proportion, massing, refinement and use of modern materials and technology – a stylistic marker of the modernist movement.

Palmer & Krisel’s building design and site plan created a “built-environment” that attempted to combine the best of city and rural life in a utopian environment.

At the time, Sandpiper was advertised as “a new concept in carefree desert living” where “each Sandpiper apartment is cleverly arranged around a pool and garden area amid an oasis of tropical landscaping.”

Sandpiper unapologetically catered to the aspiring upper middle class, so that the feeling of the buildings had to exude urbanity but in a more informal resort setting.  Homeowners were promised a “garden apartment with maid, linen and other resort hotel services as your fingertips!”

The late 1950s were a sophisticated, optimistic and open time, a feeling still expressed by Sandpiper Circles 11 and 12’s design.  The buildings and site still retain a high degree of integrity and continues its association with the modernism movement that has made a significant contribution to the community.

Pamela Bieri





Palmer & Krisel Mid Century Modern Architecture Celebrated During Palm Springs 75th Anniversary

“Palm Springs should be very proud that it is known as the capital of the world for Mid Century Modern architecture,” said William Krisel, one of Palm Springs’ foremost MCM architects who designed Canyon View Estates for developer Roy Fey in 1962.

Krisel was interviewed for a Palm Springs Life story this month by Lawrence Karol. The feature focuses on two Canyon View Estates homes that have been refurbished by a younger generation of modernists.

This year, as Palm Springs celebrates its 75th anniversary, its prestige as an architectural center is clearly part of the celebration.  Krisel said that Palm Springs, “is the one city in America that really protects that design, advocated that design, and is proud of that design.”

A New Generation of Modernists

Continue reading “Palmer & Krisel Mid Century Modern Architecture Celebrated During Palm Springs 75th Anniversary”

PST! There’s Still Time to Experience Pacific Standard Time: Modern Architecture

PSTP-Banner-combo2400x1696 (3)Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in L.A., a scaled down sequel to the first Getty initiative in 2011, is underway in Los Angeles and environs.  The current initiative celebrates Southern California’s immense impact on modern architecture with exhibitions and programs by 17 cultural institutions now through July, 2013.

Events are scattered across the city from construction sites to the Schindler House, and from Pasadena to Santa Barbara.

Just opened May 9, Everything Loose will Land, an installment at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture at the Schindler House, makes light of Frank Lloyd Wright’s infamous dig: “Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles.”  In the 1970s, boundaries between L.A.  artists and architects blurred, leading to unprecedented collaborations and innovations. Function and form ceased to be distinct in this exhibit that unites PST’s emphasis on architecture and visual design. Continue reading “PST! There’s Still Time to Experience Pacific Standard Time: Modern Architecture”