February 28, 2018

Photo Essay: Palm Springs Modernism Week, For a Day

After years of feeling intimidated by and priced out of Modernism Week in Pam Springs, I finally made it there on my own last year.

And it's true: It's both overwhelming and pricey to try to cram in all the tours of all the houses you'd like to see.

Not to mention the three-hour drive from LA.

So, when I had the chance this year to buy a ticket for a bus trip co-sponsored by the AIA—one that would provide both transportation and VIP access to the sites, I didn't hesitate.

Sometimes, I don't want to have to plan everything and navigate myself. Sometimes it's nice to leave the driving—and the logistics—to someone else.

The big draw for me to Modernism Week this year was a house colloquially known as the "Hidden Frey"—a lesser-known design of Albert Frey that's sunken down  below street level and hidden next to the former racquet club.

With a rolled roof, a cantilevered carport...

...and an elevated pool...

...the 1900-square-foot home on on a 15,682-square-foot gated lot on West San Marco Way is quintessential Frey...

...and classic Palm Springs Modernism circa 1966.

It can't quite compare to the Frey II house, but that's because Frey designed it for LA developer W.I. Hollingsworth and not for himself—hence, its official name, the Hollingsworth Tennis Estate.

The rest of the day's sites didn't quite have the marquee value of an architect like Albert Frey, unless you count the furnishing retailer West Elm...

...whose "pool house" is more or less a showroom for the chain's wares.

But, all product placement aside, the recently restored 1979 house in the El Mirador neighborhood of Palm Springs does have a really nice pool....

...beautiful tile...

...and original metalwork sculptures adorning the outdoor fire pits.

And who could complain about that mountain view?

Believe it or not, our day's discoveries just kept getting better and better—as with another new addition to Modernism Week, the so-called Wexler 2.

Based on an original design of architect Donald Wexler from decades ago—but built posthumously, as Wexler died in 2015—this modern-day post and beam in the Andreas Hills neighborhood follows in the tradition of the so-called "Wexler steel houses."

Wexler didn't get to build as many of them himself as he wanted to, as the prices of prefab steel skyrocketed before the "Man of Steel" could complete the entire planned development in Palm Springs.

Fortunately, the builders of the Wexler 2 were undeterred by the materials necessary to make the last steel home Wexler designed come to life and become a reality...

...and now, the "Steel and Glass" house has been completed and is for sale.

The interior feels futuristic in a way that most contemporary construction projects never achieve quite as successfully as perhaps intended...

...though I suppose it's a certain brand of retrofuturism at work here.

But since some of these Mid-Century Modern designs never exactly became the norm, they still feel like a future that is yet to be.

Our final stop for the day—on a day that felt like it had been crammed with a week's worth of architectural and design explorations—brought us to the "Casa Estrella" showcase home, also known as the "Moroccan Modern."

The 5500-square-foot, custom-built home in the Indian Canyons was designed in 1974 by Hal Lacy, known for his groovy homes that provide a welcome oasis in the desert.

Featuring a front door painted in "Pink Dahlia" and metal screens evoking Moroccan medallion designs...'s a little too exotic to be truly Mid-Century Modern... well as a little too adorned, and a little too, well, pink.

But hey, man, it was the '70s, and sometimes you've got to make some trade-offs in order to get a sweet outdoor kitchen and fire pit alongside your pool and outside your guest casita.

And now that February has come to an end and the busiest week of the year in Palm Springs has passed, I wonder what Modernism Week will have in store for me next year.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: A Modernist Bachelor Pad Above Palm Springs
Photo Essay: A Modernist Desert Dwelling
Photo Essay: A Frank Sinatra Home, Upon the Demolition of Another
Photo Essay: The Glass House

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