One of the hippest US destinations, this California desert town has become a go-to spot for art and design buffs for many reasons, including the very popular Modernist Week festival that runs from the 15th to the 25th of February in 2018. Highlighting mid-century modern architecture, art, interior and landscape design, and vintage culture in the Palm Springs area, this is the festival’s 13th year running with more than 350 events and activities on the slate.
From private home tours, architectural tours and garden tours to nightly parties and film screenings, there is even a mid-century exhibition with design pieces—from furniture to clothing—on sale to the public.
“Modernism Week continues to expand the scope and reach of our events and programming,” said William Kopelk, Modernism Week Board Chairman. “This year, we will continue that trend by offering new events and educational opportunities while still featuring the beloved favorites that our audience anticipates. We will offer a compelling combination of educational talks and film screenings, exciting tours, and activities throughout the Coachella Valley and beyond. Our returning Modernism Week attendees will be thrilled with the selection of appealing new programs.”
So what is it that makes Palm Springs such a good location for this festival? The housing boom at the end of World War II seduced a slew of leading modernist architects, including John Porter Clark, Albert Frey, Richard Harrison, Hugh Kaptur, William Krisel, Donald Wexler and E. Stewart Williams, to the sunny and warm climate of Palm Springs. Inspired to develop new styles of architecture that focused on indoor/outdoor design, and featured new building materials like concrete, the city experienced incredible growth through the 1950s and 1960s.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the Palm Springs economy slumped, and these houses, which normally would have been remodeled or replaced by homes that reflected the time period, were left intact. When the economy started to bounce back in the 1990s, people started to realize how wonderful these mid-century modern homes were and began to restore them to their original conditions.
Today, there are entire neighborhoods that look as pristine as the day they were built. That, coupled with stunning commercial buildings also designed in the midcentury era, has made Palm Springs into a mecca of Modernism. So with so much to do, look at and go see, here are our top picks for this remarkable festival.
Devoted to Design
From February 16th to 19th is the Palm Springs Modern Design Expo, a new event at the Palm Springs Convention Center that showcases cutting-edge modern design and technology. The expo features 40 exhibitors presenting the newest and coolest elements for modern living. There’s a focus on energy-efficient building materials, home appliances and electronics, smart home technology, hand-crafted furniture and design accessories, contemporary art, and photography. Running at the same time is the Modernism Show & Sale for those who want to do a little mid-century shopping. With 85 exhibitors from across the U.S. and Europe, check out the rare and beautiful vintage furniture, lighting, sculpture, paintings, silver, jewelry, ceramics, glass, rugs, prints, photography, vintage clothing and accessories on offer, all reflecting design movements of the 20th century. Admission to either the Design Expo or Modernism Show & Sale allows entry to both events so this is definitely a whole day’s worth of design inspiration.
For those who love to get a peek at real life modern home design, some of the most captivating activities during this festival are the private home tours. This year the organization is giving guests the opportunity to take part in the first-ever Modernism Week Showcase Home – Moroccan Modern. Built in 1975, this spectacular, one-of-a-kind, custom home (right) was designed by architect Hal Lacy and recently renovated by Thomboy Properties. With majestic custom carved 10-feet high double entry doors, as soon as step inside this stunning property, you’re immediately transported to completely other (luxurious) world. While the house itself is thoroughly modernized, Lacy created tremendous drama by adding magnificent touches reminiscent of Morocco, including details in the entry and master doors, decorative medallion cutouts and the metal screens visible from the street. Representing a wonderful blend known as Moroccan Modern, if you haven’t seen a home like this before, now is the time to take a look, with several tours scheduled throughout the festival.
Back at the Ranch
Atomic Ranch, a quarterly magazine that celebrates mid-century houses—from 1940s ranch tracts to 1960s architect-designed modernist homes with an emphasis on affordable solutions and homeowner renovations—holds its own event during Modernism Week called Atomic Ranch Live: Seminars, Workshops + House Tours. From February 16th to 18th, expect a weekend is full of expert advice on real estate, interior design, and restoration, with a three-part series moderated by Atomic Ranch brand leader Sarah Jane Stone. Each 90-minute session will be followed by a tour of local mid-mod homes to discover rescued features, identify modern details, and meet the experts who turned these homes into the historical treasures they are today.
Film by Design
Film and design buffs rejoice! Modernism Week has partnered with the American Documentary Film Festival (AmDocs) to create the Architecture and Design Film Series for the first time. Running from February 23rd to 25th, all films will be shown on the big screen at the Camelot Theater and features 26 films, documentaries, and shorts, including Marmol & Radziner Design Giants (right). “Modernism Week has offered selected films each year to augment our educational programming, but we have never created a comprehensive film series before,” said Mark Davis, educational programming chair of Modernism Week. “We are thrilled to collaborate with AmDocs to offer this outstanding Architecture and Design Film Series. These films, ranging from insightful short films to full-length feature documentaries about fascinating architects, designers, and locations, will provide Modernism Week attendees with a unique opportunity to see a high-caliber selection of exciting films over a three day period. We are extremely grateful that this partnership with AmDocs has provided access to first-rate films that we would not have been able to offer.”
Find your own mid-century modern hideaway in Palm Springs