Palm Springs: a mecca of mid-century modern architecture
Palm Springs, the Californian desert resort located within the Colorado Desert’s Coachella Valley, lives somewhat constrained by past headlines with the ever-relenting reference to the Hollywood stars that once set up home 100 miles away from the glamour of LA.
In doing so, the rich and the famous inadvertently turned Palm Springs into a living architectural museum before moving on to more expansive and luxurious holiday destinations. The locals will still point out the former homes of Frank Sinatra, Elvis and Marilyn Monroe from time-to-time but that shouldn’t distract you from the structural surroundings—it just so happens that the most impressive buildings were once owned by the rich and famous, who’d have thought it?
Looking around, however, Palm Springs is bizarrely beautiful. Architects inspired by the desert landscape and modern techniques like the Bauhaus and International Style, 1950s developers adopted what is now called Desert Modernism—a style that dominates the area.
Architects such as Donald Wexler, Richard Neutra Albert Frey, John Porter Clark and more have helped scape the landscape since the 1920s and onwards. It’s a truly surreal yet magical place, Palm Springs, and the aura of the place does begin to have an effect. While Arnold Palmer might have once said “you don’t go to Palm Springs in the summer unless you’re building a golf course,” the local tourism board have tried everything in their power to move the city forward.
While the location can, at times, appear somewhat sleepy, it is worth booking a mid-century tour with ‘Palm Springs Modern Tours’ who detail some of the key spots to check out, that included the Tramway Gas Station, The Wexler Steel Houses and Elvis’ Honeymoon Hideaway.
Palm Springs Architecture Attractions:
1. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, 1963 2. Racquet Club Road Alexanders, 1959-62 3. The Wexler Steel Houses, 1961-62 4. Tramway Gas Station, 1963-65 5. SunMor Estates, 1955-1962 6. Elvis’ Honeymoon Hideaway, 1957 7. Palm Springs Post Office, 1970 8. Bank of America, 1959 9. Twins Palms Estates Alexanders, 1960 10. Palm Springs City Hall, 1952-1957 11. Kaufmann House, 1946-47
Aside from the architecture, there’s plenty of other interest in Palm Springs… The Aerial Tramway is definitely worth checking out, it climbs 6000 feet high and offers impressive views of the landscape. The city, in total, covers around 94 square miles and, while it is classed as the largest city in Riverside County, the location is easy to navigate.
While there’s a constant reference to a star-studded past, Palm Springs is ever-evolving and, while it does appear to be something of a time-warp at times, the local authorities are always attempting to steer the city in new, progressive directions. Palm Springs, which has one of the highest concentrations of same-sex couples of any community in the United States, proudly celebrates that honour and hosts the ‘Greater Palm Springs Pride is a free festival’ every year which has the town buzzing with excitement.
Alongside the Gay Pride celebrations, Palm Springs has found itself home to thousands other festival-goers in recent years as the immensely popular Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival continues to expand every year with prolific effect. Given the amount of creative thinkers that descend on the area with regularity, bars, restaurants, cafes and more in the area has grown impressively with the demand.
Bars, food, and other things we enjoyed can be found on the map below.