Explore Palm Springs Modernism Week

The Palm Springs Modernism Week is upon us – this 11-day festival celebrating mid-century modern design, architecture, and art takes us back in time to soak up the vintage culture.

The annual festival offers over 350 events for modernism fans, giving people a glimpse into the luxurious Palm Springs lifestyle in the mid-20th century. From architectural walking tours to classic car shows to visits to iconic houses, this popular event is the epicentre of modernism.

Image credits: Daniel Solomon for Vista Sotheby’s International Realty

What is Desert Modernism?

Since the 1920s, modernist architecture has taken Palm Springs by storm – these sleek, modern homes embrace the natural environment of the dramatic surroundings. Known now as Desert Modernism, this architecture movement has perfected the art of outdoor living, using large sliding doors, expansive walls of glass and light neutral colours that hold up well in the harsh heat of the desert. Categorised by sleek lines, flat roofs, and indoor-outdoor spaces, Desert Modernism is a creative combination of informality and elegance. This iconic type of architecture seeps into every pore of Palm Springs, down to its bank buildings. Rudy Baumfield’s 1959 Bank of America plays with distinct elements of modernism, down to the paired-back décor and unusual use of forms.

Image credits: David A Lee

Get a taste of Modernism Week

Modernism Week’s self-appointed mission is to “celebrate and foster an appreciation for mid-century architecture and design, as well as contemporary thinking in these fields.” The popular festival prioritises education, giving a special spotlight to sustainable modern living. This focus on sustainability is particularly prevalent in their specialist self-driving tour. The interactive driving event gives a taste of the Palm Springs homes that embrace an eco-friendlier approach. With concerns about the change in our climate more heightened than ever, Modernism Week does well in giving attention to architects and designers finding new ways to create functional and sustainable buildings in the arid Californian desert.

A particular highlight of this year’s festival is Stayner Architects’ Wave House. The studio recently completed a refresh of The Desert Wave House, a house designed by the legendary architect Walter White. This feat of architecture is an impressive amalgamation of the past and present; White’s original design, including his undulating roof, is still present in Stayner’s remodelling. The successful redesign has White’s intentions in mind, and the house is a must-see at this year’s festival.

Image credits: Tim Hirschmann

Iconic houses from more than 24 neighbourhoods give modernism enthusiasts access to their grounds. These slices of design history solidify Palm Springs as one of the most fashionable cities in the USA, and favoured getaway amongst celebrities. Some of Hollywood’s biggest stars are known to have partied, relaxed, and stayed in Palm Springs as an escape from the bustle of the city. And what’s more quintessentially Hollywood than Frank Sinatra? The legendary singer’s party house, known as Twin Palms, has recently been renovated with nostalgic 1960s interiors, and features in this year’s modernist house tour. The four-bed house is a Modernist mecca that is decked out with sleek sliding glass doors, square hole features, and a piano-shaped swimming pool – the perfect combination of Hollywood glamour and mid-century modernism.

Image credits: Victoria Sambunaris

The Palm Springs Modernism Week runs until 26th February 2023. To keep up with the events, follow @modernism_week on Instagram. Share your favourite modernist architecture with the hashtag #tbmodernism.

by Imogen Aldridge
Studio and Marketing Coordinator, turnerbates


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