Hello again Palm Springs! After having such an amazing experience last year, I made sure not to miss Modernism Week this year and booked my flight and hotel as soon as the newsletters started to trickle into my inbox with event and schedule updates.
The beauty upon arriving to Palm Springs is the orange mountains you first see when you walk out into the airport terminal, it’s the blue skies and California desert light you see while walking the terminal corridors, it’s the terminal, the seating and vintage carpet! The best part about returning to a place you have been to before is getting to know it all over again, making new discoveries.
This year I was able to recruit my friend Ani to come out and meet me in Palm Springs. Since it was President’s Day weekend, the city and the Ace Hotel were both pretty busy. Our weekend started Friday afternoon with a visit to the Uptown Design District where you can find the Shops at Thirteen Forty Five, vintage furniture at Christopher Anthony Ltd, a la Mod and the beautiful Trina Turk flagship boutique designed by Kelly Wearstler. On Saturday we took a day trip out to Salvation Mountain which if you find yourself in the area it is definitely worth the drive. Salvation Mountain was created out of local adobe clay and donated paint by artist Leonard Knight. The main purpose was to spread the message that God is Love and it’s celebrated with flowers, waterfalls and a yellow path. People leave small tokens of appreciation and the experience is quite unique. In the middle of the desert, Salvation Mountain, was busy with people taking pictures, climbing and exploring. There was even a guy making music by tuning radio frequencies in a way that created melody.
The Ace Hotel kicked off Modernism Week by hosting a screening Saturday night of Visual Acoustics, a documentary on the work of architectural photographer Julius Shulman. It was through Shulman’s work that I personally began down this rabbit hole, learning about architects and designers who worked in California in the early and mid twentieth century and I was excited to revisit the film once again. The screening ended with a small panel conversation with Director Eric Bricker, Michelle Oliver producer and grand daughter of Julius Shulman and Beth Harris architecture historian, owner and restorer of the Kaufmann House (built by Richard Neutra). Since the initial release of the film in 2009 there has been a steady growth in interest not only for Shulman’s work but also in restoring and preserving modernist homes. Each panelist spoke about their memories of working with or knowing personally Julius Shulman. The takeaway was definitely recognizing how significant Shulman’s work is, not only as an art form but also as documentation on interiors and exteriors for preservation purposes.
Eileen Gray was an important personality in design and was celebrated this Modernism Week in 2 separate events. With a film screening of Gray Matters a documentary on the life of the designer, which had its world premier at the Architecture and Design Film Festival in New York City in 2014. This film has yet to reach theaters. Followed by a lecture on the restorative process of Cap Moderne, a project that involves the work of Eileen Gray, Le Corbusier and Jean Badovici. The Villa E-1027 is the name of the important building designed by Gray and Badovici as a collaboration but mostly designed by Gray. Le Corbusier has murals that have been preserved in the structure as well as a small cabin that he built for himself in the vicinity. Ultimately this is where Le Corbusier dies of a heart attack swimming in the bay. Cap Moderne is located on the French Riviera overlooking the Bay of Monaco. The travel wheels in my head are spinning of course as I’m sure the experience to visit would be incredible. www.E1027.org explains the restoration dates and how to make an appointment for a guided visit. There are many reasons why this architectural site is so important. For me the importance lies in the detailed work of a female architect and designer who had a complex relationship with 2 complex men. Both Badovici and Le Crobusier admired her work very much yet never acknowledged her contribution publicly. Today we are much more informed and concerned with bringing into the light acknowledgement, not only of the work by Gray but also that of other women who made important contributions to design history.
Monday, February 15th was dedicated to Herman Miller. The furniture company is probably one of the most prolific in the mid-century modern style in American design history. A lecture on the life of George Nelson, who was design director at Herman Miller gave insight into his thought process and achievements and the many many hats that his creative mind wore. There is a great series of illustrated films created by Herman Miller called the Hilda stories. Hilda Longinotti was George Nelson’s secretary and she worked for Herman Miller for almost half a decade, she narrates these little vignettes on what it was like to work at the design studio. Amy Auscherman discussed the archival process at Herman Miller and the importance of prototypes and preserving pieces of fabric, photography and all the creative pieces that go into a final design. Charles and Ray Eames who worked for Herman Miller were particularly exceptional at holding on to the ephemeral and documenting with their cameras images of the everyday as creative pieces used for inspiration.
A highlight this Modernism Week was the lecture titled Daughters of Design with Susan Saarinen daughter of Eero Saarinen, Carla Hartman granddaughter of Charles and Ray Eames and Celia Bertoia daughter of Harry Bertoia. Individually they spoke about their relative’s career and work adding a few personal anecdotes. Then as a panel they answered questions related design legacy and preservation. The stories about how they all knew each other, worked and admired each others work were particularly special. This was a group of designers who are still being celebrated and awarded for their accomplishments. Susan Saarinen spoke about her father’s interest in designing for the time and never repeating the same solutions, he always tried to use new techniques and materials, which I think is particularly courageous. He also believed art was part of a building and considered architecture as fine art. Carla Hartman spoke about the experience with her grandparents where the guest-host relationship was reflected in everything that Charles and Ray Eames did because what they created: objects, toys and furniture was for others, taking into consideration the needs and lifestyle preferences of their client or guest. Work was play and play was work with the Eames’. Harry Bertoia was also one not to repeat himself in his work and even though he is popularly known for his furniture designs he was most prolific as a sculptor. He created many beautiful sound sculptures and invited the viewer to make their own interpretation of his art.
Just prior to my departure to Palm Springs I received a beautiful and one of the first catalogs to be printed on the lesser known architect Walter S. White by Professor Volker M. Welter and University of California Santa Barbara. I learned about White’s work last year and was intrigued by the efficiency of his little homes and the integration of ideas from Frank Lloyd Wright, Rudolph Schindler and his own personal passion for aviation and energy-efficient structures. I made sure not to miss the opportunity to learn more about his work through Professor Barbara Lamprecht. This was her second time lecturing at Modernism Week. Barbara Lamprecht is a scholar on Neutra and her lectures dive into the beautiful and fascinating theory behind everything built. Her lecture titled Neutra, White and Krisel: The Circle, the Line and the Setting was just a small yet rich taste of the topic at hand. She began with historical references of the circle from the renaissance and tied it in with mid-century modern and its use in canopies, spacial layouts and furniture. The relationship between the circle with the square or line and its reduction to simplicity when used in architecture- I am doing some extreme summarizing here but if you are interested in the theory behind architecture I highly recommend her books. Lamprecht is one of the most knowledgeable architectural historians I’ve had the opportunity to attend in lecture and she gives interesting perspective to architecture as art form and science. The most interesting points in her lecture this year were those made by creating connections between art and architecture or art and landscaping. After introducing the landscape architect Garrett Eckbo, Lamprecht continued by demonstrating slides comparing images of artworks by Wassily Kandinsky and Garrett Eckbo’s landscapes. She also made comparisons between the work of Mies van der Rohe and artworks by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. Lamprecht spoke highly of Eckbo’s work and the importance of landscape architecture as part of the modernist movement. Landscape for Living is a book that was written by Eckbo in 1950 and was intended as a theory on modern landscape architecture adjusting to the economical and social changes of the previous 100 years. I just ordered a copy so look out for more journal entries on this topic.
The re-emergence of Hollywood Regency has been in full force through the work of interior designers such as Jonathan Adler and later Kelly Wearstler, creating products that embrace the style. It wouldn’t be Modernism Week in Palm Springs without the proper attention to the man who was part of it all, architect and interior designer John Elgin Woolf. Of course Hollywood Regency has come a long way from its initial days. The style originally set itself apart by synthesizing 19th century French architecture, Greek revival and Modernism in architecture and interior design. Today it can be replicated in interiors with luxe materials and bright colors.
The hit television series Mad Men played an important role this Modernism Week with lectures on costume, set design and the making of a show that took special dedication to replicate the lifestyle of the time. The fashion designer Trina Turk made an appearance as panelist discussing the fashion of the different years, the different types of women of the time and how their style evolved. Trina Turk is a local in Palm Springs and has her flagship store on N. Palm Canyon Dr.
A drive out to Yucca Valley was on my to-do list this time in Palm Springs. There are some treasures to be found at the vintage and antique shops in Old Town. If you are looking for one-of- a-kind finds and pieces with a soul, you definitely want to check out The End. You’ll really just want to hangout its got such great vibes. Kime, the owner also hosts on Airbnb, a 1 bedroom apartment right behind the shop, how much do you love vintage? How much do you want to get away to the desert?
Dear Palm Springs,
You are magical, timeless and fierce.
Thank you again for sharing with me all that you are.
I look forward to seeing you again soon.
In case you missed my first visit to Palm Springs for Modernism Week you can read all about it here.