Lined with street after street of low-slung horizontal roofs swept over vanishing walls of granite and plate glass, Palm Springs is one of the most stylistically consistent cities in the U.S.
Whether gas station, bank, hotel or home, the architecture in Palm Springs is most often midcentury modern, and it blends seamlessly into the long hot horizon of sand as it banks dramatically up against the pale granite eruptions of the San Jacinto Mountains.
This winter a new museum of architecture and design opened to celebrate that singular legacy in an eloquent period building that was once a bank. And an ever more popular Modernism Week, Feb. 12 -22, showcases the versatile and durable appeal of midcentury modern, attracting some 45,000 visitors to a loaded schedule of open houses, tours, lectures and events.
California is, of course, home to many midcentury-modern marvels, from the archeo-modern pylons of Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute in La Jolla to the rectilinear stacks of Richard Neutra’s Los Angeles residence and studio. But its flowering in the desert in and around Palm Springs is especially luscious.
The contributing reasons are diverse. A tradition of mineral hot springs, operated along with casinos by the local Agua Caliente Cahuilla tribe, has always lured a leisure-minded crowd. Then, in the 1940s, the U.S. military delivered a massive economic jolt when it arrived (led by George S. Patton) to train soldiers in the desert, bringing along access to innovative materials and technologies borrowed from the aircraft industry that fueled a modern approach to building. ….