February 28, 2019

Photo Essay: A Modernist Spider Lands In Palm Springs

In North Palm Springs on Indian Canyon Drive, there's a roadside attraction known as the "VW Beetle Spider."

circa 2009

Made of a Volkswagen and other welded parts, it's attracted many a traveler passing through the low desert. But it's not the only arachnid in Palm Springs now.

Photo: Circa 1952, OfHouses (via Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Thanks to the Sarasota Architectural Foundation and Palm Springs Modern Committee, a replica of the "Spider In the Sand" arrived in late 2018, just in time for the Modernism Week preview.

Designed 1952 by Paul Rudolph—when he'd just begun working at his own practice and was challenging the principles of International Style—the original Walker Guest House is a beach cottage built for Dr. Walt and Elaine Walker in Sanibel Island, Florida, where it still stands.

The replica has made its first journey to the West Coast and is now situated literally in a construction pit near the Palm Springs Museum of Art.

Fortunately, this "floating pavilion" sits on a platform and can be set up anywhere the land is level.

The concept behind the beachfront guest house is for it to be "open to all outdoors" and provide "carefree summer living"—and the key to that is in its modularity.

In fact, it can be "tuned" by its residents—raising hinged plywood flaps to create 8 additional feet of living space on all four sides of the house.

During World War II, Rudolph had spent four yrs in the Navy—including a stint working at Brooklyn Navy Yard in shipbuilding—and the naval influences on the guest house are clear.

The shutters can be operated thanks to a set of pulleys, anchored by 10-inch red counterweights, each weighing 77 lbs. The posts that reach down from the beams that support them appear like legs on a crouched spider. And it looks the leggiest when the shutters are up.

But those red balls earned the Walker Guest House yet another nickname—the "Cannonball House."

Inside, the postwar and naval influences also abound, including the cleats that hold the ropes for the pulley system...

... and the galley-like kitchen.

One fixed panel of glass is installed at the end of each Masonite wall—the epitome of postwar construction using "new" and affordable materials.

At 24 by 24 feet, this "tiny house" feels like it could be installed anywhere. But when I mentioned that I'd like one in Southern California, the docent discouraged me, noting that it was really just meant as a summer home for the Florida beach.

It couldn't handle summers that were too hot or winters that were too cold.

But I think a little radiant heat in the flooring would do just fine.

Now I just need some land to put it on...

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: The Glass House
Photo Essay: Hollywood Glam in a Desert Modernist Tract

No comments:

Post a Comment