The Landmark Kaufmann House Still Makes News

This month’s Palm Springs Life’s home feature, “The Road to Fame and Fortune,” by Greg Archer ( opens with one of the area’s most famous homes, the Kaufmann House, a 1946 glass, steel and stone landmark designed by architect Richard Neutra.

The home has twice been at the vanguard of new movements in architecture:  First by helping to shape postwar Modernism and later, as a result of a painstaking and expensive restoration in the late 1990s, spurred a revival of interest in mid-20th century homes, according to a New York Times review by Edward Wyatt (

This house continues to make news as an important landmark.

One of the best-known icons by Viennese émigré Neutra, who moved to the United States in the 1920s, this unusual pin-wheel plan house was designed for Pittsburgh department store magnate Edgar J. Kaufmann.  It was the last domestic project by the architect, and arguably his most famous. Continue reading “The Landmark Kaufmann House Still Makes News”

All About Alexander Homes

Plans are underway for the 10th Anniversary of the “Great Alexander Weekend” in Palm Springs, March 26-27, 2011. The Palm Springs Preservation Foundation ( ) is planning a full weekend of home tours, seminars, cocktail receptions and special tributes to one of Palm Springs’ most influential and innovative home builders.

The Great Alexander Weekends and PSPF’s tribute book, When Mod Went Mass, have garnered significant awareness of the Alexander-built tract homes by architect William Krisel, and helped leverage even more importance to the genre of Mid-Century Modern homes, commercial and public buildings which are prevalent throughout Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley.

From as early as the 1920s and through the 1970s, an impressive roster of talented architects have been captivated by Palm Springs:  R.M. Schindler, Richard Neutra, and Lloyd Wright (Frank Lloyd Wright’s son); young Swiss architect Albert Frey whose work profoundly influenced desert architecture; and regional modernists William F. Cody, Donald Wexler, E. Stewart Williams and Krisel. Continue reading “All About Alexander Homes”

The Elrod House in Palm Springs is For Sale

Architect John Lautner’s Elrod House Now On the Market

Architect John Lautner’s iconic Arthur Elrod House ( is back on the market with a  price tag of more than $13 million.

The late architect, renowned for his organic structures, composed  this amazing home carved into the rugged Southridge foothills overlooking  Palm Springs in 1968.  The house has been featured extensively in lifestyle, architecture and design magazine articles ( and is best known  as the James Bond bachelor pad in Diamonds are Forever. It is one of three buildings in Palm Springs by Lautner:  Bob and Dolores Hope’s “space ship” domed home also on Southridge (1979) and the Desert Hot Springs Motel (1947).

The Elrod  house contains many Lautner hallmarks:  a difficult site, harsh environment, modest entrance that conceals soaring space, and rooms that conversely move between indoors and out.  The 8,901-square foot house possesses a daring Mid-Century design and breathtaking vistas. Continue reading “The Elrod House in Palm Springs is For Sale”

Palm Springs Modern Architect Donald A. Wexler


A Closer Look At Palm Springs Modern Architect Donald A. Wexler.

Palm Springs Modern is practically a genre in its own right:  Light, spacious steel-and-glass masterpieces  reflect a “golden era” of Mid-century desert architecture that ingeniously adapted industrial technology into now classic civic and residential buildings.

Celebrated  Palm Springs architect Donald Wexler’s contributions to Coachella Valley architecture are plentiful and exceptional.

While he may be best known for his neighborhood  of steel houses designed for the Alexander Construction Company in the early 1960s (, most of Wexler’s works are found among public and commercial projects including one that first greets Palm Springs  air travelers – the Palm Springs International Airport.

Bold and striking with steel integrated  in every part of the house — walls, roof, fascia, trim — its beams, channels and columns were designed to fit together quickly and securely, to be erected in a matter of hours instead of days. Light weight but strong steel frame homes allowed more floor space and floor to ceiling windows to capture the breathtaking desert and mountain landscapes.  Many of Wexler’s homes featured a folded plate or zigzag roof line that today seems almost a signature “W” for his innovative design.

In an interview by Jack Levitan for CA-Modern Magazine ( ),  Wexler  said, “‘I saw steel as ideal for the desert.  In the desert, steel, concrete and glass are the only materials to build.  They’re inorganic and they don’t deteriorate in the extreme temperature we have.”

Back in the Mid-1950s and 60s, the steel homes were designed to be affordable (when steel was cheap), saving labor and materials, and  low maintenance — a garden hose the only maintenance tool required.

An advertising feature in Home Builder’s Journal, dated August 1962, ( touted steel homes as being termite and fire-proof, longer lasting, acoustically superior, and snugly fitting to keep out dirt, insects, and hot or cold air with “consequent lower maintenance costs.”

This sounds hauntingly like today’s quest for energy efficiency, sustainability, low-maintenance and affordability. The famed architect also designed the Palm Springs Police Department and Jail, the Larson Justice Center in Indio,  the Merrill Lynch Building in Palm Springs, the original Palm Springs Spa Hotel’s Bath House (a joint venture with then partner Rick Harrison, architect William Cody and Pierre Koenig), the Desert Water Agency, El Rancho Vista Estates, Royal Hawaiian Estates (Palm Springs’ first residential historic district), Palm Springs Medical Clinic, Union 76 gas station, numerous schools and celebrity homes (

Wexler’s celebrity homes included the stunning Dinah Shore and Leff/Florsheim houses, actor Alan and Sue Ladd’s home, one that eventually became Ann and Kirk Douglas’, actress Andrea Leeds and her race-horse and Buick agency owner husband Bob Howard, and a project for Frank Sinatra.

“I felt houses were very personal .  You got very involved with people.  It’s different than doing  a public building or commercial job, ” said Wexler in the CA-Modern Magazine interview.

This past January, the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation ( celebrated a three day Wexler Weekend, showcasing his work in honor of his 84th birthday.  The weekend kicked off with a showing of the film “Journeyman Architect: The  Life and Work of Donald Wexler”(available on YouTube)  by Design Onscreen (

The homes tour included 14 Wexler-designed tract home properties in El Rancho Vista Estates, Wexler’s original Palm Springs Home, the Krizman, Douglas and Shore residences.  Visitors toured the 2004 restored Leff/Florsheim house (built 1957) which was taken down to the slab and rebuilt using Wexler’s original blueprint while incorporating modern day conveniences and upgrades.

Some fascinating books on Wexler available through Palm Springs Preservation Foundation include the Wexler Tribute Journal, and Donald Wexler: Architect by Patrick McGrew (

More Palm Springs Modern events coming up:  Modernism Week, February 18-27, 2011 ( ) and the 10th Alexander Weekend, March 25-27, 2011, celebrating the Alexander tract homes’ architectural importance ( .

Pamela Bieri

Wexler Weekend


Last night we went to Palm Springs to see the great Film “Journeyman Architect: The Life and Work of Donald Wexler” at Camelot Theatres. A 67-minute film produced by Design Onscreen followed by a brief Q&A with Wexler tribute journal author Patrick McGrew and architect Doug Hudson.


A clip from the documentary “Journeyman Architect: The Life and Work of Donald Wexler” released by Design OnScreen. The mission of Design Onscreen is to document and disseminate in some form of “film media” the work of significant designers and contemporary issues in design.


The Wexler Weekend House Tour is one of the best house tour values ever offered in Palm Springs. Highlights include Wexler tract homes in El Rancho Vista Estates, Wexler’s own Palm Springs home and Wexler-designed celebrity homes. The house tour will include 14 (yes 14!) houses ranging from tract homes to custom residences to spectacular celebrity homes. Architect Don Wexler’s original Palm Springs home is also included on the tour. The tour ends with stops at two rarely seen celebrity homes. The Wexler House Tour is a “must” event for all lovers of great residential architecture. Don’t miss it . click here for tickets:




wexlerweekendRecognizing the life and work of Mid-Century Modern architect Donald Wexler. The weekend’s events will include a film screening, house tours and an evening cocktail party at an exciting location in Palm Springs.