Category Archives: Tours

DOCOMOMO Architectural Bus Tour Highlight: Coachella Valley Savings #2

Darren Bradley

With just a few scant days left to buy tickets for the DOCOMOMO Architectural Bus Tours this weekend, we thought we’d bring you one last preview to whet your architectural appetite.  The renowned midcentury architects of Palm Springs did not limit their work to designing dream houses for the likes of Old Blue Eyes and other movies stars exclusively.  They thankfully accepted a variety of commissions, designing more mundane buildings for  a growing city with more needs for gas stations, schools, churches, government buildings, and retails stores.  The result is that today, Palm Springs is a desert oasis full of unexpected gems.

The Coachella Valley Savings and Loan #2building located at 499 S. Palm Canyon Drive stands out as one of these gems; a true landmark of mid-century architecture.  Designed by E. Stewart Williams in 1960, the building is now occupied by Chase.  But far from being a ubiquitous bank building, #2 stuns with its dramatic inverted arches.  This distinguished building is probably one of the most-photographed banks in the country and at the time of its construction, when pent-up consumer demand was fueling exceptionally strong economic growth in a post war period, the building’s regal facade and imposing profile inspired confidence and optimism.

As an interesting side note, the Santa Fe Federal Savings and Loan building, which was also designed by E. Stewart Williams and lay vacant for many years, will also soon experience a second life.  The Palm Springs Art Museum has announced that it will be transforming the building into the Palm Springs Art Museum’s Edwards Harris Center for Architecture and Design, with the help of LA architects Marmol + Radziner (who are no strangers to restoring midcentury Palm Springs architecture).  The Architecture and Design Center hopes to open its doors in early 2014.

To see these and other amazing commercial and civic architectural landmarks, don’t miss the bus tour this weekend.  There are still a few spots left.  But don’t forget to wear a wide-brimmed hat!

Photo by Darren Bradley

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DOCOMOMO Architectural Bus Tour Highlight: Kaufmann Residence

Kaufmann Residence, Palm Springs Modernism Week

The iconic Kaufmann Residence is THE house that kickstarted the whole movement to restore and revive mid-century architecture in Palm Springs; the very house that may have single-handedly transformed Palm Springs from a recreational haven into an architectural-cultural destination.  Built in 1946 by architect Richard Neutra, this unforgettable residence was photographed by Julius Shulman and enjoyed almost 20 years of notoriety before settling into obscurity in 1970, around the time of Neutra’s death.  In 1993, it was purchased by Beth and Brent Harris and restored to its former splendor by Leo Marmol and Ron Radziner.   Since their restoration of the house (completed in 1995) there have been close to 275 articles about the house.

For anyone thinking of joining Palm Springs Modernism Week for the DOCOMOMO Architectural Bus Tours, October 5th through 8th, it’s definitely worth reading up on the hidden history of this iconic house to better understand the entire cast of characters who have all played a part in this 65-year love story.  When you pull up in front of 470 West Vista Chino, you’ll feel like part of the story yourself.

Here are just a few amazing photographs of the Kaufmann Residence from across the years.

This is the view that most of us have seen before.

Photo by Patrick McGrew

An iconic image from back in the day, exhibited last year as part of the Backyard Oasis exhibition at the Palm Springs Art Museum curated by Daniell Cornell.

Famous image from the Backyard Oasis Exhibition in 2012

The Kaufmann House always has and always will make a beguiling backdrop for fashion shoots.  Here it is featured in a recent J.Crew catalog.

A beautiful shot of a poolside party in 1970 by Slim Aarons.

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DOCOMOMO Architectural Bus Tour Highlight: Twin Palms

Photo by Jackie Craven

First-time visitors and experienced architectural adventurers alike love the signature Palm Springs Modernism Week architectural bus tours.  The guided double-decker bus tours wind their way through some of the most notable neighborhoods in Palm Springs, giving guests the perfect vantage point from which to peek over fences to catch a glimpse of some of the most remarkable architectural landmarks in town.   This year, Palm Springs Modernism Week will be hosting a series of signature bus tours during the DOCOMOMO National Tour Weekend October 5th through October 8th.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll highlight a few of the drive-by destinations on the tour to give readers a taste of what they can look forward to seeing in October, and of course this coming Spring at Palm Springs Modernism Week 2013.

Photo by Mark Picascio

Among the many highlights on the bus tour is a drive-by visit to the Menrad Residence in Twin Palms Estates.  Named for the pair of palms that were planted in the front yard of each home, the Twin Palms neighborhood is home to a dozen residences designed by famed architecture firm Palmer & Krisel and built by the Alexander Construction Company.  Architect Bill Krisel, now in his nineties, has been directly involved in the restoration and renovation of some of these homes, specifically the Menrad Residence.  The estate was built in 1957 and all 12 houses were designed to the same floor plan, but positioned differently, and come with Krisel’s signature feature- the butterfly roof. Even though the floor plans were essentially all the same 40 x 40 foot square, the different rooflines, rotation of the home on the lot and unique exterior finishes gave the homes a custom look.  Filled with natural light and seamlessly blending indoors with out, the homes were initially priced at around the $30,000 range.  Palmer and Krisel were the first to create a new formula for a modern, custom-like tract that would ultimately be emulated throughout the Coachella Valley and Southern California.

If a drive by and a peek at the gardens of the Mendrad Residence isn’t quite enough, you can always grab a virtual tour here, courtesy of Kurt Cyr, including a great shot of Bill Krisel himself.

Photo by Kurt Cyr

Check out the full schedule of DOCOMOMO architectural bus tours here and catch a ride back in time on our double decker buses!
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Palm Springs DOCOMOMO National Tour Day, October 5-8, 2012

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Known to many as the Golf Capital of the World and a haven for retirees seeking the better life, Palm Springs is finding a second calling as a cultural destination for new generations of architecture and design fans.  Over the past fifteen years, the city has become recognized as a goldmine of mid-century modern architecture, design, and style – a throwback to the days when Hollywood’s biggest stars would escape the glitz and glamour of the silver screen by hiding out in this desert playground and a look forward at what modernism means today in a contemporary context.

From celebrity estates to modernist classics like the Kaufmann Desert House, Palm Springs gives visitors a unique perspective on a seminal period in American Architecture. As a celebration of Palm Spring’s importance in midcentury design, for the second year in a row, Palm Springs Modernism Week organizers are giving design aficionados a sneak peek of what to expect in February by hosting a series of signature architectural bus tours as part of the DOCOMOMO National Tour Day, with four days of design-filled events on October 5-8, 2012.

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In an effort to raise the awareness of and appreciation for buildings, interiors, neighborhoods and landscapes designed in the United States during the mid-20th century, the DOCOMOMO (International Working Party for DOcumentation and COnservation of Buildings, Sites and Neighborhoods of the MOdern MOvement) Tour Day will invite people from across the nation to participate in one of the largest events devoted to the appreciation of American Architecture.  To see what other states have in store, check out the National Tour page for more information.

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If you’re in the SoCal area, don’t miss this opportunity to hop on a double decker bus and explore the architectural gems of Palm Springs. These tours are often the first to sell out during Palm Springs Modernism Week so consider this an extra chance to catch this epic ride.  Book tickets now at www.modernismweek.com.

DOCOMOMO National Tour Day/Modernism Week events:

Double Decker Architectural Tours – October 5, 2012
Double Decker Architectural Tours – October 6, 2012
Double Decker Architectural Tours – October 7, 2012
Double Decker Architectural Tours – October 8, 2012

Modernism Week Cocktail Party – October 6, 2012

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