“Swimming In Succulents:” DnA Talks Backyard Design at Modernism Week

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Join DnA in Palm Springs this Saturday.


Modern lovers are already on the road to Palm Springs for Modernism Week and KCRW DJ Anne Litt, and DnA’s Frances Anderton, Caroline Chamberlain and other station folks are joining the crowd.

We’ll spend all day Saturday at CAMP at our “living room” which features furniture and accessories by Southland designers who’ve been guests of the show: Ana SerranoBari ZipersteinBen MedanskyFitzsuTanya AguiñigaJudy Kameon, Hedley & Bennett and Louise Sandhaus. We’ll also be raffling off some very special V-Day gift baskets, so make sure to drop by.

A Prickly Topic

While there we’ll also take on a prickly topic; namely, the future of the Palm Springs backyard in a time of dwindling water supplies.


The desert lifestyle has been defined by sensual, synthetic backyards of surreal green lawns, vivid English garden flowers and of course the swimming pool, an estimated 15,000 of them apparently in the Coachella Valley — and over 120 golf courses gulping a reported million gallons per day.

But the dwindling groundwater supply coupled with a realization that extended drought might be the new normal is shaking up the approach to backyard design. Does this mean classic houses like Sunnylands (above and below) have to give up their classic gardens?

How do you persuade panicked golfers that a drought-friendly golf course does not mean, to quote our guest Stu Rowland, “dried- up, dusty, cactus-strewn properties reminiscent of a spaghetti Western?”

Moreover, can cactus-strewn properties be beautiful?

And forget midcentury; what is the signature 21st century Palm Springs backyard?

These are just some of the questions we’ll be discussing with our panel of notables:

Brad DunningResidential designer specializing in the preservation of classic 20th century houses; his projects include work on the Richard Neutra-designed Kaufmann House.

Michaeleen Gallagher, Director of Education and Environmental Programs for the  Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands, the estate designed for Walter and Leonore Annenberg by architect A. Quincy Jones and since remodeled and expanded by architect Frederick Fisher, with new, more drought-tolerant landscaping by James Burnett.

Craig Ewing, President of the Board of DIrectors of the Desert Water Agency

Stu Rowland, Director of Golf Course Operations at Rancho La Quinta Country Club and past president of the Hi-Lo Chapter of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. 

Please come join us for this discussion. It takes place at 11AM on February 14 at CAMP, located at 555 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92262.

For a preview of the panel, listen to this interview with Brad Dunning that aired on this week’s DnA.

Check out everything else that’s going on at Modernism Week, here.

Eloquent Modernist

And while there, make sure to visit the new Architecture and Design Center, in a building originally designed by E. Stewart Williams, remodeled by Marmol Radziner and currently featuring An Eloquent Modernist, E. Stewart Williams, Architect, an exhibition of Williams’ architecture and planning work in Palm Springs.

Palm Springs Architecture and Design Center
Palm Springs Architecture and Design Center, Edwards Harris Pavilion; photo by Daniel Chavkin (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)