People gather twice a year to pay tribute to the creative architects who lived and worked in Palm Springs. Visitors come to witness the mid-century residential and commercial structures in the Coachella Valley. This article will pay homage to the mid-century modern architects who pioneered Desert Modernism and placed Palm Springs on the world’s architectural map.
Desert Modernism is a style that uses the warm weather and bright sky of southern California and the American Southwest. It incorporates minimalism in its design and also uses the elements of the backdrop, blending it perfectly with the desert landscape of Palm Springs.
It would be criminal to talk about modernism without including Richard Joseph Neutra. Born in Austria, he brought International Modernism to the deserts of Palm Springs and many credit him for starting the movement in the US. Richard Neutra’s intense client focus won him the recognition of many prominent clients. Also, his personalized and flexible approach to the design resulted in highly sought-after homes. His simple geometry combined with airy steel and glass was unprecedented. This skill made Richard J. Neutra one of the country’s most significant mid-century modernists.
Donald Wexler was born in South Dakota in 1926. After serving in the Navy during World War II, he graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1950. He then came to Los Angeles and worked with architect Richard Neutra. He eventually relocated to Palm Springs to work at the Tamarisk Country Club for William F. Cody. In 1952, Wexler teamed up with Richard Harrison and created some of the best modernist buildings in Palm Springs. Desert Modernism became synonymous with Palm Springs during this period. In addition, Donald Wexler popularized Desert Modernism and Palm Springs by employing a novel steel-working process.
William F. Cody studied architecture at the University of Southern California in the late 1930s and early 1940s. He was born in Ohio and raised in Dayton, California. Cody relocated to Palm Springs, and in 1946, he completed the Del Marcos Hotel, one of his most notable projects. Additionally, the AIA recognized this project with a commendable mention. He also built churches, gas stations, retail malls, restaurants, mobile home parks, business organizations, and even a carwash. As a result, he is one of the top Desert Modernists in Palm Springs because of his career and style.
There may have been no Desert Modernism or mid-century modern homes in Palm Springs if not for the dedication of these people. Beyond being a part of the region’s history, they did a lot to shape the character of Palm Springs.
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