Paul Hodgins of the Orange Country Register takes a look at the expansion of this year’s Palm Springs 11th annual Modernism Week, part of a plan to keep the more than 60,000 attendees happy and give them something different to see from year to year. 

Paul writes that the popularity of Palm Springs and nearby desert communities represents an amazing reversal. In the decades after World War II, Palm Springs became a living laboratory for the latest in residential design philosophy, propelling the careers of practical-minded, creative architects such as Albert Frey, William Cody, Richard Neutra, Donald Wexler and E. Stewart Williams. The advent of central air conditioning and economical homebuilding materials and technologies transformed the Palm Springs area from a winter playground for Hollywood stars into an affordable year-round community with breathtakingly beautiful surroundings. 

Paul notes that by the early 1970s, changes in aesthetic tastes and the fading of postwar optimism dulled modernism’s luster, and Palm Springs became unfashionable. However, Palm Springs’ decades of relative obscurity were a blessing; with no reason to renew and renovate old neighborhoods, nobody touched these buildings and while they weren’t necessarily treated well, they survived. As well, the structures of the best Palm Springs architects were built of glass, steel and stone, and so they withstood the harsh desert climate. 

As the clean, spare lines of modernism began to be appreciated again, Palm Springs slowly became cool again. Many point to author Cara Greenberg’s 1984 book, “Mid-century Modern: Furniture of the 1950s,” as the starting point of the revival. Now the elegant minimalism, bold colors and geometric shapes of modernism are an integral part of residential home and furniture design. Some think that midcentury modernism has transcended trendiness to become the default look for tasteful homes because of its elegant simplicity.  

To read Paul Hodgins’ original article and view the accompanying pictures, courtesy of the Orange Country Register, please visit: