George and Robert Alexander Builders of Modernism in Palm Springs

Palmer & Krisel Twin Palms tractr home. Photo by Julius Shulman. Getty Museum

The Alexanders George and Robert Alexander – Builders of Modernism in Palm Springs Photo: Julius Shulman 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; repeatability. 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 […]

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John Lautner the architect of the Elrod House

Modern Architect John Lautner's Elrod House in Palm Springs, CA

John Lautner Famous Architect of The Elrod House in Palm Springs John Lautner apprenticed with Frank Lloyd Wright in his early career. He had no appreciation of the cool severe geometry of his midcentury minimalist peers. He spent his life as an iconoclast. John Lautner was overlooked and miscast by his critics. Many of his best-known design projects such as the Googie Coffee shop on Sunset Boulevard have been criticized as Atomic Age or Hollywood ketch. John Lautner was born in 1911 in Marquett Michigan. He worked under the direction of Frank Lloyd Wright from 1933 – 1939. John Lautner began his private practice in 1946 in Los Angeles where he boldly experimented with new industrial processes. He would call this his search to answer total basic human needs, physical as well as emotional in shelter. John Lautner was fascinated with new shapes and structures, but this had nothing to […]

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Palm Springs Modernist Architect, Albert Frey

Modern Architect Albert Frey's Loewy House in Palm Springs

Albert Frey, 1903-1998 Modernist Architect in Palm Springs, California 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. Albert Frey was one of the last of a generation of European architects that moved to the West Coast with a vision that the landscape could be a perfect vision for the future modern boom. Albert Frey was born in Zurich on Oct. 18, […]

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William Krisel Mid Century Modern Architect

Racquet-Club-Road-Estates by Architect William Krisel Palm Springs

William Krisel Photos by Dan Chavkin Famous Mid Century Architect in Palm Springs Renowned architect, William Krisel, has designed tens of thousands of homes throughout his long and extensive career. He was a visionary, and his designs represented the defined and spatial sensibility of the geometric style of the modernist design. William Krisel was born in Shanghai, China in 1924 where his father was a career diplomat. He learned Mandarin and the local Shanghai dialect as a young boy. When the Japanese invaded China in 1937, his family moved to Beverly Hills. He enlisted in the Army at the beginning of World War II. Because of his knowledge of Chinese he became one of General Joseph Sidwell’s Chinese interpreters. He returned home after the war, and completed his studies at the University of Southern California, where he received his architectural training. He graduated in 1949 and earned his license in […]

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Donald Wexler an icon in Mid Century Modern Architecture in Palm Springs

Donald Wexler Steel House in Palm Springs

Donald Wexler Famous Palm Springs Architect   Donald Wexler practiced architecture during what he calls the “golden age” of California architecture from the immediate postwar years through the 1970s. This was a time when architects enjoyed considerable freedom to employ new materials and technologies in their search for functionally beautiful architecture. The extremes of the desert climate forced Wexler to develop a sustainable architecture, which was not only successful functionally, but achieved a timeless aesthetic appeal. During a career that spanned almost six decades, he designed numerous houses, condominium complexes, as well as banks, office parks and schools. Donald Wexler moved to Palm Springs in early 1953 to work with William Cody, a high-living socialite with a sense for solid design. He had intended to only stay about six months, but like many people, Donald Wexler fell hard for the Coachella Valley immediately upon arriving in Palm Springs!! After living […]

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Palmer & Krisel’s 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. www.palmspringslife.com 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 David and Arianne Keens and Duff Kleiner are the homeowners featured in Palm Springs Life who renovated their Canyon View Estates […]

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The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands Is a Time Capsule of Past and Future

  Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage was the winter home of former US Ambassadors, entrepreneurs and philanthropists Walter and Lenore Annenberg. Designed by iconic Southern California architect A. Quincy Jones, the 22,500 square foot Mid Century Modern home, completed in 1966, served as an unofficial center for world leaders, US presidents, politicians and celebrities, who were frequent guests of the Annenbergs for more than 40 years. Situated in the middle of 200 acres of landscaped grounds and a private golf course, all surrounded by pink block walls, anticipation of seeing the magnificent Aztec-inspired glass and stone estate builds as you drive up the winding road to the summit. There, an artistic fountain centers a circular drive up to the home’s entrance. Imagine the limousines and Rolls Royces pulled up for the likes of Queen Elizabeth, Prince Phillip, the shah of Iran’s mother and sister, Japan’s prime minister, and every US President […]

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J.W. Robinson Department Store Gains Class 1 Historic Site Status

J.W. Robinson Department Store Gains Class 1 Historic Site Status

Last week, the Palm Springs City Council voted unanimously to designate the J.W. Robinson’s Department Store building a Class 1 Historic Site.               www.pspreservationfoundation.org. The free-standing building on South Palm Canyon Drive at West Baristo with its dramatic elevated entrance and graceful pavilion style, is an important component of historic trends that have come to define Palm Springs as an epicenter of midcentury architecture. Designed by the Los Angeles architectural firm of Charles Luckman Associates and William Pereira in 1957-58, the building received a National Honors Award that same year by the American Institute of Architects, one of the most prestigious architectural awards ever given to any Palm Springs project, commercial or residential. Last year, the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation (PSPF) launched an initiative to author Class 1 Historic Site recommendations for various commercial and residential buildings throughout Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley.  The […]

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This post is in: Mid-Century Modern Enclaves, Palm Springs Architects & Designers, Palm Springs Area, Palm Springs Modernism, Preservation of Palm Springs Modernism