Category Archives: Architects

Lovely Bill Cody House in Rancho Mirage

Today I came across a reference image of a lovely Bill Cody house in Rancho Mirage. I am willing to state that Bill Cody is my favorite of the Palm Springs architectural locals. The sheer number of projects he completed and his ability to evolve his architectural ideas is truly inspiring. Wild Bill Cody was truly a great Palm Springs Architect.

Luckily, knowing the area quite well, I was able to locate the house in short order after seeing a few key details in the reference photograph. From what I read it sounds like the owner of the house wants to keep a low profile with his mid-century modern gem. I don’t blame him.

The house appears to be in original shape. I will have to get a closer look and snap more photos of this Bill Cody marvel in Rancho Mirage. I love the road it is on – my favorite part of that area.

Does anyone have more information on this house? I’m curious to see the state of the interiors and what they have evolved into over years of use. If you have

Mid-century modern rancho mirage Modernism Palm Springs Rancho Mirage

Palm Springs Desert Modernism

Thoughts on Palm Springs’ Architectural History:

Palm Springs is the home of various genres of modern architectural work. It’s interesting to drive around Palm Springs and sees some projects influenced by early modern “international style” principles and go around a corner and see some expressive and playful concrete work which fits into a later period of modern architecture. the influence of master works of architecture is very obvious in Palm Springs. The most blatant example is on Palm Canyon Drive where you’ll find a knockoff of Le Corbusier’s Ronchamp Chapel taken straight from France and brought to Palm Springs in the form of a bank.

Desert Modernism:

Desert Modernism takes what works from early Modernism and applies it to our desert landscape in Palm Springs. For many of the midcentury architects here that meant using an abundance of glass, clean modern lines throughout their design while maintaining adequate overhangs and shading to protect the architecture from the deserts intense sunlight. The most charming feature of Desert Modernism is the importance of the indoor outdoor relationship. This is epitomized by the Kaufmann House but was equally important to many of the local architects of the time.

The Kaufmann House by Richard Neutra is the most widely known piece of architecture in the area and for good reason. It is a very important piece of architecture that looked at buildings as vital to the health of its inhabitant. John Lautner is another big-name architect with projects in palm springs. He recently had a well put together exposition of his work at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. The aforementioned architects are well known among any architectural and easiest to circle and have helped to put Palm Springs on the map in terms of architectural history.

Historical Architects in Palm Springs:

There is also a highly regarded cast of characters in the Palm Springs modernist scene that are spoken of on the same level as Neutra and Lautner. I referred to these as the local heroes of Palm Springs architecture. They have various high-quality projects in the Coachella Valley but are relatively unknown outside of their home turf. A large part of this is because they did not push the envelope as to what architecture could be during their careers as much as the Neutra’s, Lautner’s and Corbusier’s of the modern movement.

Below is a short (and incomplete) list of the big-name and local hero architects that gave Palm Springs its modern style:

      • Richard Neutra
      • John Lautner
      • Albert Frey
      • Donald Wexler
      • Bill Krisel
      • ‘Wild’ Bill Cody
      • A. Quincy Jones
      • George and Robert Alexander (Modern Developers)
      • E. Stewart Williams

 

The great thing about the abundance of projects in Palm Springs is that the topic of architecture is discussed and understood by most inhabitants and visitors to the city. This is largely due to the city of Palm Springs and various artificial committees within the city celebrating the architectural heritage and history of Palm Springs and the region. Support for Palm Springs modern architecture materializes early each year in the form of Palm Springs Modernism week. This event transforms the city into a showcase in celebration of its best architectural works even if it becomes a bit retro and cliché at times. That does not mean it is not enjoyable. Various modern themed parties, lectures and tours take place throughout the city. It has become quite a festivity and is a major attraction for tourists around the world. I cannot think of another place that celebrates architecture in this fashion.

Palm Springs Architectural Groups, Activists and Committees:

If you are interested in partaking in the various festivities, events, lectures and awareness of modern art capture in Palm Springs there are various groups to be aware of. While many of these have overlap in scope they each have their own goals and characteristics. Most of these require membership but also feature public events throughout the year if you’d like to see what they do for joining.

• Palm Springs Modern Committee,

• Palm Springs Preservation Foundation

• Palm Springs Historical Society

• PS Museum Architecture & Design Committee

While these committees are based in activism and preservation of architecture they are also a great way to meet like-minded people interested in architecture and design.

The influences of Palm Springs architects on the current cityscape is quite interesting. It can be seen for better or for worse in almost every new project that is constructed in the area. I found this most interesting when stumbling across a stylized strip mall for the first time. Extra design elements were added to the regular box stores to give it a Palm Springs Desert modern flair and character. The design did not solve my issues with strip malls in general but wasn’t I surprised to see that even developers in the region want to do something special when working with Palm Spring’s architectural past.

The downside of all of the fanfare and height over the residences and commercial projects from the 1950s and 60s is that certain elements of them are inappropriately as selling points for new developments. This can be seen in a view up and condo complexes in Palm Springs. A specific element, such as the accordion roof, is replicated needlessly across the whole development to give the salesman as well as the uneducated buyer the chance to say that they live in a modern development. Similar conditions can be seen at other new projects in the city. While I do think it is important to preserve and understand the architectural history of palm springs I do not think new developments should mimic them for the sake of sales. In my eyes this is the same as copying a task in the Mediterranean villa because a particular group of people have been conditioned to view it as the ultimate form of residential.

Palm Springs has a rich architectural past which focused on innovation in design and material use is being celebrated. The city of Palm Springs needs to return to that and encourage it in new projects, which happens but not exclusively, to keep the city relevant in the 21st century. The city of Palm Springs as well as the various architectural groups and committees run the risk of forcing the town to become a retro destination. If every new project has to pay homage or resemble what was done 50+ years ago we will not have another artificially significant design be erected in the city. There will not be another Kaufman house or formal concrete work by Lautner because it will not be able to get through the revisions and comments thrust upon it by the city and other activist groups.

Palm Springs is a truly unique city with a significant architectural history. It is important to understand what allowed Modernism to thrive in Palm Springs as well as the roots of early Modernism which took place many years before the first modern structure was ever completed in the desert. It is important to keep the discussion of Palm Springs architects alive, ask important and historical questions about precedents and key architectural innovations that took place here.

Types of Architects

There are important factors to consider when selecting an architect to work on your Palm Springs remodel or new home design. It is important to select an architect or architectural firm that you are compatible with on a personal level and whose aesthetic style you enjoy.

Types of Architects:

There are myriad specialties within the architectural world. Large firms generally focus on larger projects which could be medical facilities, hospitals, master planning, education and campus facilities. In the Palm Springs area few firms specialize in projects of this scale. DLR Group is a national firm that has a Palm Springs branch specializing in schools and other large projects.

You are probably reading this because you are interested in designing your dream home in Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage or the Palm Desert area. You are in luck because there are many smaller architecture firms to choose from in the area. It is important to select a firm that specializes in residential work for your new home or remodel project. Within the residential sub-genre of architects scale plays a role in informing the firm you choose. Some firms specialize on multi-family residences, townhomes and apartment buildings. The scale of these projects often requires repetition of details and spaces to keep construction costs down and help the developer’s bottom line. There are firms that do both large and small projects equally well, but it is important to do due diligence and make sure you are making an informed decision about who you want working on your project. A good litmus test for your potential architect is to go over your specific goals and needs, then ask them what similar projects they have completed. Often times, you will be able to personally see these projects and the final quality of the architect’s work.

Two main architectural styles dominate residences in Palm Springs. These are Spanish and Modern styles. They are very different but both are fantastic when well designed. Many of the early 20th century homes in Palm Springs are done in a Spanish style. Architectural enthusiasts and tourists know Palm Springs for the modern buildings that have made it famous. Many of these structures were designed and constructed after World War 2. While referred to as “mid-century” modern, this modern style took root in Europe in the very early 1900’s and made its way to America when architects fled to avoid war.

Current architecture firms in Palm Springs reflect both of these defining styles. Various firms do both Spanish and Modern styles based on the client and their goals. Others specialize only in modern style projects while some only do Spanish style residences. The further east you travel in the Coachella Valley, especially in La Quinta, Indian Wells and Palm Desert, the more Spanish style gated communities you find. Many of the large gated communities in the eastern Coachella Valley are developer designed and built tract homes. They offer great value for the money and can be modified and customized by an architect to make them truly unique. Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage feature truly unique older neighborhoods featuring historical custom homes. These houses and neighborhoods were once home to many famous Hollywood stars, politicians, CEO’s and the general rich and famous.

In a future post I plan to outline various Palm Springs neighborhoods giving an insight into their history and the famous starlets which called them home at one time.

I hope you find this information valuable. If you have any questions about local Palm Springs designs or architects feel free to email me on the contact/about page. I will do my best to facilitate any questions that you may have as I have had quite a bit of experience working with designers and architects in the area.