Modernism Week 2020

Koerner House, 1955 | E. Stewart Williams, Architect

While the wider world knows February to be the month of love, architects, designers, and fans of mid-century aesthetics know February can only mean one thing: Modernism Week. Once a year, the city of Palm Springs hosts visitors from all over Southern California and the world for a week of historic home tours, showroom sales, and cocktail parties that rival even the grooviest soirees of Palm Springs’ heyday.

Palm Springs’ legacy of mid-century modern architecture makes the area a living museum. Significant architecture doesn’t just belong to residential homes, commercial and civic buildings are also destinations that are easily accessible all year round. But for an insider’s look, Modernism Week is one of the only times that the public is invited into private homes.

What sets Palm Springs modernist homes apart from other residences of the movement is the unique adaptations architects had to make when designing homes for desert living. A specific set of aesthetics define “Desert Modernism” and these tastes remain popular today. Certain materials are favored by architects such as Neutra, Krisel, and Frey for their utilitarian properties and design. Instead of molding the landscape to the designs, architects worked with the natural beauty of the desert oasis to create their designs. One striking example is Albert Frey’s “Frey House II” where a boulder is used as a natural partition between living and entertaining quarters of home, resulting with very little disruption to the natural landscape. Use of concrete, steel, and expanses of glass are favored for their ability to handle harsh weather. Signature features of Desert Modernism include roof styles such as the butterfly roof and folded plate roof which mirror the San Jacinto mountain views signature to Palm Springs living, flat shed roof, post and beam interiors, and concrete breeze blocks to provide privacy and a cooling effect. The result is a sleek and effortless form that is breezy, simple and elegant.

Returning tourists can expect popular events and programs to be back better than ever. Modernism Week’s CAMP “Community and Meeting Place,” will be the central hub for all things Modernism. CAMP will feature a box office for tours and demonstrations, a cafe, a store, and a theatre. Special music performances will be held at CAMP too. This particular portion of Modernism Week is free and open to the public. Serious interior design aficionados can ogle at new and vintage decorative art at the 20th annual Palm Springs Modernism Show & Sale and The Palm Springs Modern Design Expo at the Palm Springs Convention Center. Top national and international dealers will be hawking their wares February 14-17th. Other returning events include Double Decker Architectural bus tours through classic neighborhoods, an after-dark landscape design tour called “Illuminated Modern,” tours of the former Annenberg Estate “Sunnylands,” desert garden tours, the Palm Springs Door Tour, and other walking tours of timeless neighborhoods to suit every mid-century interest.

New and updated events to add to the calendar include this year’s Showcase Home Tour. The Gillman Residence by Herbert Burns will be on exclusive display highlighting its Modernism Week restoration by Thomboy Properties. And of course, if you are attending Modernism Week, you cannot miss the Opening Night party appropriately themed, “Space Modyssey 2020” with tributes to David Bowie and signature cocktails. Guests can expect the Palm Springs Air Museum to be transformed into a Space Station that is out of this world.

In the past, deasy penner podley has been fortunate enough to host Modernism Week as top sponsors. Our mission to conserve and appreciate architectural homes is a perfect fit for Modernism Week’s mission statement which seeks to foster appreciation and education in Mid-Century design as well as promote sustainable living as the Modernist architects envisioned during post-war America. Over the years, dpp has also represented significant Mid-Century homes in the Palm Springs area such as Ocotillo Lodge bungalows, residences by E. Stewart Williams, and Albert Frey.

Tickets for the most popular events are bound to be sold out, but there are still many activities that do not require tickets and plenty of events open to the public for all ages. It’s never too early to plan for next year! See you in the Oasis!

The front of the Koerner Residence with its flat shed roof and San Jacinto mountains in the background Photo courtesy of J. Paul Getty Trust | Getty Research Institute | Julius Shulman, photographer.

Archival pool photo of the Koerner Residence Photo courtesy of J. Paul Getty Trust | Getty Research Institute | Julius Shulman, photographer

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