Palm Springs’ Modernism Week: The Coachella for Architecture

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Palm Springs’ Modernism Week, now in its 12th year and being referred to by some as the “Coachella for Architecture,” has grown into a 10-day week. KCRW’s “beat architect” Jason Groman…

A. Quincy Jones gets his star Palm Springs’ Modernism Week, now in its 12th year and being referred to by some as the “Coachella for Architecture,” has grown into a 10-day week. KCRW’s “beat architect” Jason Groman — who also happens to be a nephew of Palm Springs living legend Donald Wexler — revved up his 1964 Chrysler Newport and arrived for the opening last week. He reports on his experience here, and on this DnA.

Modernism Week started at the most appropriate venue on Valentine’s Day:  the “Twin Palms Estate” of Frank Sinatra, designed in 1946 by E. Stewart Williams. What better place to kick off the 11-day week of tours, talks and exhibits than at the home of the man who was instrumental in love music?

Upon my arrival at Twin Palms I was greeted by Modernism Week Chairman Jacques Caussin. Mr. Caussin is a larger than life personality wiz a French accent so theek it sounds like he stepped out of Central Casting. Mr. Caussin was living in Detroit when he brought a modernism show to Palm Springs in 2001. In 2006, the show grew into Modernism Week, now attracting 35,000 people, he says.

Modernism 2013’s events, lectures, tours are spread throughout the central Palm Springs area. Even though Spanish-style architecture competes with Modern, there is enough midcentury for Palm Springs to feel like an outdoor museum; making the experience of driving around from lecture to event, to exhibits — past living, breathing examples of midcentury architecture that has been preserved by a passionate citizenry  — a pleasure instead of a burden. If you not in the mood to drive and want to tour the homes Modernism Week offers the Premiere Double Decker tours 2 times daily, meaning you can peek over the walls of some of the best buildings.

pan amPart of the fun was checking out the exhibits. I spent time at the Saguro Hotel where the largest collection of memorabilia from defunct classic airline Pan Am is on display. The curator and owner of the collection, the actor and former Pan Am flight attendant Phillip Keene (in photo, right), was on hand to talk about his whimsical collection, which has curtains from the old “Clipper Jetliner” toys, ash trays, uniforms. . . if you can dream it with Pan Am branding this collection has it. The Closer actor has been collecting these artifacts for over 20 years and is still on the hunt for more.

Palm Springs loves their architects. I was in attendance for the A.Quincy Jones “Palm Springs Walk Of Fame” star unveiling (see photo above left). His star sits in front of a former bank building by E. Stewart Williams that is the future home of the Palm Springs Art Museum’s Edwards Harris Center for Architecture and Design. Jones is beloved in Palm Springs for his 1964 gem The Annenberg’s 32,000-square-foot home “Sunnyland Estate,” which this weekend will host attendees at The Public and The Modern House, a symposium offered by Palm Springs Art Museum.

The lectures have been a hit thus far. I attended the California Ceramics lecture with Wendy Kaplan, department head and curator of decorative arts and design for LACMA. I was amazed on how ceramics played a central role to modernism decor.

Richard Neutra, E. Stewart Williams, A. Quincy Jones, Donald Wexler, William Krisel, Charles Dubois, William Frey, they are The Big Seven. If you have time this week I suggest you go East on the 10 to the land where fine architects were given a blank slate to create a community of visual wonder.

Modernism Week runs through next Sunday 2/24/13. Be sure to join DnA’s Frances Anderton on Saturday 2/23/13 with her conversation with Musician and Modernism aficionado Moby. Tickets are limited -

Here is the schedule events link for the remaining 5 days.