Palm Springs

Famous Palm Springs Architects Who Created Mid Century Modern: Part 1

By Brad Schmett|July 9, 2021

The world may know about Mid-Century Modern design thanks to the success of AMC’s Mad Men, but Palm Springs has been pioneering architecture since the early 1920s. A long-ago destination for the Los Angeles elite, Palm Springs provided the perfect playground for visionary architects. The mountainous desert landscapes inspired the clean lines, walls of glass, indoor-outdoor living spaces, concrete and bright colors that thousands of tourists come to see each year at events like Modernism Week. But, who are these visionaries? Today, we dive into 3 Architects that helped define the “Desert Modernism” style in Part 1 of our Mid Century Modern Series.

Kaufmann House
Richard Neutra 

A Jewish Austrian-American Architect, Richard Neutra is considered one of the most influential modernist architects. While living with his friend Rudolf Schindler in 1929, he made his unique mark on the Lovell House using a steel frame and sprayed-on concrete. He loved to play with the desert landscapes using sliding glass doors, airy spaces, and multifunctional floor plans suitable for any lavish event. 

His restored Kaufmann House in Palm Springs is considered to be one of the finest works of residential architecture in North American. You can book your tour today. 

Cree HouseAlbert Frey

A swiss-born architect who is known for founding “desert modernism”, Frey moved to Palm Springs with his long-time collaborator John Porter Clark post World War II. Frey was already established in America for his projects with the Museum of Modern Art in New York; he saw an opportunity in Palm Springs when the population tripled following the war. He integrated his designs into the surrounding landscapes using butterfly rooflines, glass walls, rock facings and exposed ceilings.

Frey is credited as the designer for the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Valley Station, North Salton Bay Yacht Club Salton Sea, Palm Springs City Hall, Cree House, and the Kocher-Samson building.

Del Marcos HotelWilliam F. Cody

After graduating college, William F. Cody moved to Palm Springs in 1946 where he apprenticed for several California firms. Originally employed as a staff architect for the Desert Inn Hotel, he set off on his own in 1947 to design the famed Del Marcos Hotel, winning him a “creditable mention” award by the southern California chapter of the American Institute of Architects. He capitalized on Palm Springs becoming a retreat for the rich and famous after converting the Thunderbird Dude Ranch. Over the next decade, he designed famed clubhouses, residential developments, churches, hotels and libraries that you can still tour today. 

Cody is credited as the designer for St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, The Palm Springs Library, The L’Horizon Hotel, and The Eldorado Country Club

You Can Experience These Historic Designs Today By Visiting The Locations, Museums & Tours Below:

Movie Colony Hotel: designed by Albert Frey

Del Marcos Hotel: designed by William Cody

Kaufman House: designed by Richard Neutra, courtesy of the Palm Springs Mod Squad

Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center: 300 S Palm Canyon Drive

We’ll be diving into more architects that shaped the Mid Century Modern Design in Part 2 & 3 of our series later in 2021. If you can’t wait until then, head to https://www.bradschmett.net to see Mid Century homes available today in the Coachella Valley. 

Photo Credit: Tim Street-Porter/Dwell, Lance Gerber/Palm Springs Life, Del Marcos Hotel, Palm Springs Museum

 

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