From February 11th to the 21st, 2016, mid-century modern design buffs from around the globe flock to the Palm Springs desert—not to bask in the winter sun of this long-time Hollywood celebrity haven, but to celebrate and foster their appreciations for the modernism period of architecture and design. The celebratory week is packed with an onslaught of parties, events, lectures and exclusive home tours, all aimed at the preservation of sustainable modern living in the desert. Now in its eleventh year, this charitable event attracts close to 60,000 visitors, and is one of the desert area’s top annual attractions.
The epicenter of activity for the week is CAMP (Community And Meeting Place), which acts as headquarters for all tours and events. This year, CAMP will be housed the former 1958 J.W. Robinson Department Store by Luckman & Pereira, a historic and architecturally significant site in downtown Palm Springs. At CAMP, you'll have a chance to mingle withe authors and designers, sit in on a few panel discussions, and also to regroup and relax between tours, parties, shopping, and dining.
Must-dos on your itinerary should include a walking tour with the prominent Palm Springs Historical Society, which gives participants an opportunity to dive deep into the local architecture with behind-the-scenes peeks at historic and hard-to-view homes. Themed guided tours cover eras and neighborhoods from “Golden Era of Hollywood” in the old Las Palmas neighborhood where Elizabeth Taylor, Kirk Douglas, Elvis Presley, and Lucille Ball once lived, to "Stars and Star-chitects," which highlights renowned desert architects and the homes they built.
Another intinerary staple is a visit to the Sunnylands estate—also referred to as the ‘West Coast Camp David.’ Tour the grounds and the old Walter and Leonore Annenberg Estate built in 1966 by A. Quincy Jones. You can’t miss the iconic pink pyramid “statement” roof structure, Jones's signature element and claim to fame.
One of the most popular events during the week is local designer Christopher Kennedy's “compound,” which features the work of nationally-recognized interior designers. This year, Kennedy will also stage a second vignette, “The Mod Lounge,” in the nearby Saguaro Hotel. On February 19th, the hotel’s award-winning Basque restaurant, Tinto, will host “Mod Bites,” a multi-course dinner with wine pairings inspired by the designer's work, where Kennedy will also be signing his glam new book “California Modern.” Call for reservations: 760-322-1900.
New happenings for this year’s modernism festivities include a trip to the
Museum of Pinball in Banning, one of the best kept secrets of the mid-century modern revival. “Retro Pinball Mania,” an evening of partying in a modern atmosphere while enjoying unlimited free-play on more than 700 beautifully restored vintage arcade and pinball machines, will take place on February 15th.
The year-old Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center, which used to be a savings and loan building designed by Stewart Williams in 1961 and is now a 13,000 square-foot, glass-encased steel building, is a must-see, regardless of the rest of your itinerary. The building was rehabilitated by the architecture firm Marmol Radziner, who also restored the famed Neutra-designed Kaufmann House, recently recieved Class 1 Historic Site protective status.
If you are planning on attending Modernism Week, be sure to check the website as they are continually adding can't-miss events such as a Sinatra Estate Whiskey Tasting or an opening night “rat pack” inspired cocktail party at CAMP.
A James Beard Award winner for design, this sleek eatery features a long concrete communal table flanked by cozy leather booths and a massive outdoor patio perfect for brunch. Order duck confit hash, the enormous lobster-bacon-avocado burrito or the foie gras French toast. The manager makes an authentic and fluffy Ramos Fizz with egg whites that will take you back to its 1988 origins in New Orleans.
Headed by a Michelin-star chef and raising the bar for local desert dining, the alfresco patio at L’Horizon hotel is now open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and has quickly become the place to be seen. On chilly evenings, pull up a chair at one of the outdoor fire pits and order the Arabic yogurt Labneh dip with grilled naan, roasted Spanish octopus or ask for a ‘secret’ off-menu dish such as risotto with generously shaved white truffles.
Located in an open-air dining space in the middle of the 1950’s ranch-style Sparrows Lodge barn, this cozy-rustic space is bringing a welcome farm-to-table flair to the area’s dining choices and is open for lunch daily and dinner on Saturday evenings. Top choices included a gooey ham-and-mustard melt; smoked salmon spread, or the barn burger. If you are lucky, there might be a batch of chocolate and cranberry cookies fresh out of the oven.
WHERE TO STAY
L’Horizon Resort & Spa
The 1952 William F. Cody-designed structures at L'Horizon are immaculately preserved and the grounds are dotted with 42 water features and 25 fire pits. The interiors are luxe and authentic—guests are already offering to buy the hair-on-hide rugs and vintage leather chairs from the rooms. Stay in room number 7 if you want to be close to the bar and have an amazing mountain-meets-pool view. Not far from the new spa cabanas is room number 10, where Marilyn Monroe once lived and which still retains the original fireplace. Large groups can look into booking the residence apartment complete with a private swimming pool and sunken bar for parties.
Photographer Jaime Kowal has taken a 1955 property and transformed it into five chic apartment-style rooms (one two-bedroom and four one-bedrooms) which are anchored by a central pool area. In the past they have been part of the local architecture walking tours. This is a perfect place to stay in the Sunset Park area of town as you will be surrounded by other classic mid-century modern homes and just a short drive from the all the action in the center of town.
Owner and designer Tracy Breckham, along with Ryan Trowbridge, have meticulously restored these four bungalow-style accommodations with the four original elements (concrete, steel, redwood, and glass) used in the famous John Lautner construction. Located in Desert Hot Springs, as a stop on the annual limited-engagement tours, the property will be a pivotal part of Modernism Week. Participants on the tour will be able to view two rooms at this guest-only property which is never open to the general public. In addition, the first annual signature event during Moderism Week, “Amore Modernista,” will celebrate all things Italian and mid-century modern and will take place on Valentine’s Day in the Lautner's adjacent event space and the new Lautner Clubhouse.