Desert Modern Palm Springs: A Coachella Valley Retreat for Architect Lovers

Historic mid century Tramway Gas Station designed by Albert Frey and Robson Chambers, now Palm Springs Visitor Center, California

If you’re looking for road trip ideas, then consider taking an architectural tour of some classic Desert Modern landmarks in Palm Springs.

The Desert Modern movement was a natural evolution from Mid Century Modern for Californians adapting their housing designs to their desert environment.  Clean lines, low eaves, bright open window spaces, neutral colors, and natural furniture complemented landscapes with carefully placed succulents, palm trees, and cactuses.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Valley Station. Since 1963 nearly 18 million people have traveled the 10-minute, 2.5-mile ride to the Mountain Station.

One of the most well known Desert Modern structures is the Palm Springs Visitor Center, formerly the Tramway Gas Station, and an Enco service station before that.  It was built in 1965 and designed by one of the founders of Desert Modern architecture, Albert Frey, along with co-designer Robson C. Chambers.

The Palm Springs Visitor Center sits at the foot of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which opened in 1963 and takes visitors from Coachella Valley to a stop near the top of San Jacinto Peak.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

Some more notable Desert Modern landmarks include The Wexler Steel Houses (which are private residences but can be seen from the road), the Kaufmann Desert House by Richard Neutra, Elvis’s Honeymoon Hideaway by William Krisel, and Palm Springs City Hall by Frey.

Here’s some Desert Modern Instagram love. This is a night-time view of the Palm Springs Visitor Center.

#palmspringsmodernism #tramwaygasstation #albertfrey #palmsprings

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One of the most popular spots is Elvis’s Honeymoon Hideaway designed by William Krisel.

Here is the Palm Springs City Hall building, which was also designed by Frey, built in 1952, and completed in 1957.

Donald Wexler was another innovator of Desert Modern architecture in Palm Springs, and was known for introducing steel into his residential architecture. Here is a Donald Wexler house built in 1957.

The 1957 Donald Wexler house that @stevenharrisarchitects and @reesrobertsandpartners renovated for themselves in Rancho Mirage, California, is the embodiment of classic Desert Modernism. The passage of time and some unfortunate choices in a 1970s renovation meant significant work was required. In the end, “every piece of drywall, sheetrock, and plaster was taken off and replaced,” says Harris, “but we were careful to maintain important details and the spirit of the house.” 📷 by @scottfrancesphoto; text by @stephen_wallis via: @galeriemagazine . . . . . #galeriemagazine #stevenharris #palmsprings #desertmodernism #donaldwexler #design #liveartfully #10thandwest #krimy #wearekrimy #pool #goodmorning #interior #arquitetura #architecture

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Here is the James Logan Abernathy Residence, designed by William Cody and built in 1962.

Palm Springs Pink Door Love

And of course we couldn’t do without some pops of aqua.

If you want to see more, then I recommend reading Palm Springs – Mid Century Modern Oasis by my good friend at Mid Century Modern.

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