Palm Springs celebrates mid-century modernism one house at a time

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Palm Springs celebrates mid-century modernism one house at a time
The Sandpiper, in Palm Desert, Calif., is architect William Krisel’s mega-complex of 306 condo-homes arranged around 18 swimming pools. It was built between 1958 and 1969.
Palm Springs celebrates mid-century modernism one house at a time
The Sandpiper, in Palm Desert, Calif., is architect William Krisel’s mega-complex of 306 condo-homes arranged around 18 swimming pools. It was built between 1958 and 1969.

…. Just like a good deli needs a few layers of schmaltz on the food prep area as well as on the tables, a real neighbourhood needs layers of history; that way, you can understand the motivations of the people that came before, and learn to accept the good and the bad. When serious crime finally came to Celebration in 2010 in the form of a murder and suicide, it was off script: “How do you fit these events into the Disney dream?” wrote Ed Pilkington in The Guardian.

That’s why I love what’s happening in Palm Springs, Calif., where real neighbourhoods from the mid-20th century are being lovingly restored one house at a time. Starting about 20 years ago, a handful of Los Angeles-based lovers of mid-century modernism rediscovered the sleepy retirement town and started to snatch up the modest-but-modernist vacation homes built by the Alexander Construction Co. and others. In so doing, they learned of the area’s storied past as a desert playground for Hollywood’s studio system actors of the 1930s and 40s (they had to be within a 90-minute drive for reshoots) and well into the Rat Pack fifties and sixties and, ultimately, how this led to ordinary folk wanting to play there too.

By the late 1990s, entrepreneurs were buying up tired, old low-rise hotels that had once hosted celebrities and sprucing them up to attract architourists (this one spent his 2003 honeymoon at the Orbit In). In 2005, a small festival was built around a mid-century modern furniture show at the Palm Springs Convention Center; today, Modernism Week has grown into a joyous celebration of architecture, preservation, furniture design, fashion and cocktail culture that, in 2014, attracted more than 45,000 people. ….

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