Palm Springs is well known to have one of the largest collections of mid-century modern architecture anywhere in the United States. A trend that began in the 1930's with the influx of Hollywood's elite looking to create a celebrity escape, this mid-century style blossomed from the visionary architects the A-listers brought along to help them design their leisure estates.Characterized by clean, angular lines, lots of glass, and flat roofs, the modernist architecture fit perfectly in the California desert landscape. With bi-level, wide open floor plans and indoor living spaces that flow smoothly into outdoor ones, the style quickly grew in popularity and expanded by the 1950's from celebrity mansions into larger tracts of homes that carried a much more moderate price tag.
Palm Springs has its own undeniable (and arguably world-famous) style. It also has attitude. Combine the two and what frequently comes to mind are the iconic modern-style houses of the late 50s and early 60s. Like famous works of art, these houses are referred to by the names of their architects and though Palm Springs has "Alexanders" a-plenty, there is much to be said for the "Meiselmans" as well. Jack Meiselman, that is.
From 1959-1960, Meiselman constructed nearly 200 houses in Palm Springs. While this may seem like quite a lot, the Alexander Construction Company produced about 2,500 similar houses around the same time, making Meiselman houses the truly rarer gems. Another unique aspect that differentiates Meiselmans from Alexanders is placement. Meiselman preferred to construct his houses with only one or two at a location, scattered throughout the city; the Alexander Construction Company, however, bought up huge plots of land, frequently building hundreds of houses at one site.
If you needed another reason to come to Palm Springs, this fall from October 21-23 will hold the Modernism Week Fall Preview. February is when you can find Modernism Week in Palm Springs, but the fall preview promises to be packed with some amazing things to do.
Modern Home Tours
Along with many other tours of modernist homes including Frank Sinatra's, you'll be able to tour Christopher Kennedy's home, which is credited with starting the 'New Generation of Desert Modern'.
Are you an avid fan of all things mid-century? Ever been to Palm Springs? If not, you're missing the mecca of all things mid-century modern. More specifically, you're missing the monumental mid-century architecture in Palm Springs, with so many marvels to behold it's breath-taking. So what are you waiting for, mid-century enthusiasts? Pack your bags and head to Palm Springs.
The sheer number of mid-century buildings will make your head spin, but why not start with one of the stars: Richard Neutra's beautifully restored Kaufmann house. It's a must see for any mid-century modern enthusiast. The iconic Kaufmann Desert House is considered one of the top architectural monuments in North America. Designed in 1946, for the same family as commission the Falling Water House by Frank Loyd Wright (also considered a top architectural destination), this brilliant home was created to both blend with and offset its desert environment. With its stark outlines, walls of windows, use of locally quarried stone and classic Neutra design, it stands as a star example of mid-century architecture in Palm Springs.
The progressive design of midcentury modern architecture emphasizes linear simplicity that so many people find desirable today. Built between 1945 and 1975, these structures take many different forms, from homes to gas stations.
Midcentury architecture is particularly popular among baby boomers, whose childhood memories revolve around events involving these vintage structures. Its transparent, honest simplicity of design is also highly appreciated in a sort of backlash way against the complex technology-driven, fast-paced contemporary world we live in.
You can find plenty of midcentury architecture in Palm Springs - here are a few places to explore as they take you back to another time.
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, also called The Palm Springs Tram, is the epitome of midcentury design. Completed in 1963, it not only gives you an ideal view of midcentury modern architecture, it also affords the best aerial views of the Greater Palm Springs area. The ride from the Valley Station takes you to the Mountain Station, both of which were designed by important midcentury architects.