Every February, 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 midcentury modern architecture, design, and culture during the annual celebration of Modernism Week. The event, now in its 12th year, is one of the desert area’s top annual attractions. The week is packed with parties, shows, lectures, and exclusive home tours, all aimed at fostering the admiration of modernist design and encouraging the preservation of sustainable living in the desert.
This year, Modernism Week events will take place from February 15-25. The epicenter of activity is CAMP (Community And Meeting Place), which acts as headquarters for all tours and events. At CAMP, you’ll have a chance to mingle with authors and designers, sit in on a few panel discussions, and also regroup and relax between tours, parties, shopping, and extravagant dining experiences. Speaking of which: These are the activities, restaurants, and hotels you shouldn’t miss at Palm Springs’ Modernism Week 2018.
For behind-the-scenes peeks at historic and hard-to-view homes, your itinerary should include a walking tour with the prominent Palm Springs Historical Society. Guided tours like “Golden Era of Hollywood” explore the old Las Palmas neighborhood where Elizabeth Taylor, Kirk Douglas, Elvis Presley, and Lucille Ball once lived. The “Stars and Star-chitects” tour spotlights renowned desert architects and the homes they built. (Act quickly for these tours: Tickets sell out fast.)
Another approach to an architectural tour is the annual Midcentury Bike Ride hosted by Hot Purple Energy. This bicycling event allows visitors to explore neighborhoods with midcentury homes in the north end of Palm Springs, and it’s free to attend. (Bicycles are not provided; riders can bring their own or contact Big Wheel Tours about rentals.) Participants will receive a map of the course and can follow the designated route at leisure.
New happenings include a tour of this year’s Modernism Week Showcase Home, a one-of-a-kind, custom-built “Moroccan Modern” house by Thomboy Properties. Built in 1975 by architect Hal Lacy and recently renovated to modern luxury, the showcase home represents a magnificent blend of Moroccan and midcentury modern design, as seen in details of the entryway, the geometry of the angled walls, and decorative interior touches.
Several events are also available for the public to attend at no cost. An exhibition titled “Sojourn in the Desert” will be on display throughout the week at Palm Springs’ Joslyn Center, spotlighting Walter S. White, an inventor, builder, and architect who lived in Palm Springs during the 1940s and 1950s. White used environmentally friendly construction methods that addressed the desert climate and complimented the landscape. The annual Modernism Week Vintage Car Show, which features a collection of restored, original American and European cars from the 1940s through the 1970s, is also free to attend.
Workshop Kitchen + Bar
A 2015 James Beard Award winner for Outstanding Restaurant Design, this sleek eatery features a long concrete communal table flanked by cozy leather booths and a massive outdoor patio perfect for brunch. To eat, order the duck leg confit, the cauliflower brie gratin, or the honey-lavender glazed black cod. To drink? Try the Bee’s Knees, a Prohibition-era gin cocktail that’s been updated to include fresh honey, lemon juice, and lemon oil.
Headed by Michelin-starred chef Giacomo Pettinari, the alfresco patio at L’Horizon Hotel has raised the bar for local desert dining since it opened just a few years ago. The restaurant, which non–hotel guests can attend for dinner (and brunch on weekends!), is the place to be seen in Palm Springs. On chilly evenings, pull up a chair at one of the outdoor fire pits and order the grass-fed lamb chops and grilled eggplant. Then, dip into the restaurant’s delectable wine list featuring top-notch bottles from around the world.
Located in the middle of the 1950s ranch-style Sparrows Lodge, this cozy-rustic space brings a farm-to-table flair to Palm Springs’ dining choices. The kitchen is open daily for lunch from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., although reservations are required for non–hotel guests. Make sure to taste the gooey ham-and-mustard melt, the smoked salmon spread, or the Barn Kitchen’s signature hummus. And don’t miss “Chicken” Wednesdays and “Steak” Saturdays, when the restaurant creates custom family-style suppers for a select number of guests.
Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs
Situated in the heart of Palm Springs at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains, the recently opened Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs is the perfect place to rest your head after a long day of Modernism Week activities. Its 153 spacious rooms and suites offer restorative relief from the desert sun. Plus, the exciting hotel is home to two of the hottest new restaurants in town. Catch a killer view from the rooftop while dining on French-inspired Mediterranean fare at 4 Saints, an upscale restaurant and bar on the hotel’s seventh floor. Or visit the breezy all-day restaurant and café, Juniper Table, where you can enjoy hyperlocal lunches by day and cutting-edge cocktails by night.
L’Horizon Resort & Spa
L’Horizon Resort and Spa evokes the distinct glamour of Hollywood’s golden age through its immaculate renovation by design guru Steve Hermann. The manicured grounds are dotted with 25 luxury bungalows that emulate private residences. The hotel was originally designed in 1952 by architect William F. Cody as a private getaway for television producer and hotel owner Jack Wrather and his Hollywood friends. Large groups can look into booking the apartment where Marilyn Monroe once stayed, complete with a private swimming pool and sunken bar for parties.
Owner Jaime Kowal has taken this 1955 property and transformed it into a quaint complex with minimalist midcentury vibes. The Amado’s five apartment-style rooms offer private kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms, and living and dining rooms, all anchored by a central pool area with a barbecue grill and fire pit. This is a perfect place to stay in the Sunset Park area of town, surrounded by other classic midcentury modern homes and just a short drive from all the action (and the airport).
Designers Tracy Beckmann and Ryan Trowbridge have meticulously restored this collection of bungalow-style properties, designed in 1947 by American architect John Lautner, in a renovation that took nearly four years to complete. Located in Desert Hot Springs, The Lautner consists of four luxurious “living units” constructed from concrete, steel, redwood, and glass. The compound, which is the only Lautner residence open to the public for accommodation, has been described as a “micro-resort”—that is, a hybrid between an upscale vacation rental and a boutique hotel.
For more information about Modernism Week 2018, visit modernismweek.com.
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