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PALM SPRINGS WEEKEND: The Architecture and Design of a Midcentury Oasis

Hess, Alan, and Andrew Danish

Published by Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2001
ISBN 10: 0811828042 / ISBN 13: 9780811828048
/ Condition: Fine / Hardcover
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About the Book

Bibliographic Details

Title: PALM SPRINGS WEEKEND: The Architecture and ...

Publisher: Chronicle Books, San Francisco

Publication Date: 2001

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition: Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: very good

Edition: Third printing.


Oblong 4to. Yellow cloth with silver spine and cover titles. Pale blue end papers. 180 pages, with Bibliography and Index. Illustrated throughout with color and b/w photographic images and drawings. No names or marks. Dust-jacket (with price intact), has a closed tear at top of rear panel, else Fine. A crisp, as new copy. Bookseller Inventory # 2490

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Synopsis: This is the first book to reveal the eccentric treasure trove of commercial, civic, and domestic architecture that makes Palm Springs a true oasis of progressive design. Not merely regarded as a Hollywood playground, golf enclave, or retirement mecca, Palm Springs is also a bastion of idiosyncratic modernism that is unparalleled in the world. Creating stunning homes and an impressive array of other buildings in the middle of the desert, such masters as Albert Frey, Richard Neutra, John Lautner, R. M. Schindler, Donald Wexler, and Lloyd Wright exercised their creative potential there. Palm Springs Weekend explores everything from the grandiose, such as Neutra's Kaufmann house, to the more humble features of the city--motels, trailer homes, and the ubiquitous metal and concrete sunscreens that shade them. Filled with hundreds of archival and contemporary photographs, elevations, and vintage ephemera, Palm Springs Weekend reveals an inimitable city where modern design, Hollywood glamour, and the desolate drama of the desert coalesce.

Review: Palm Springs Weekend could have been just a breezy look at the celebrity culture of this California desert playground. Instead, Alan Hess offers an authoritative yet refreshingly nondoctrinaire view of the various ways European and American architects--some famous, some not--adapted the canons of modernism to suit the desert climate, landscape, and lifestyle. With evocative vintage photographs and an engagingly retro design by Andrew Danish, this is one of the most enjoyable popular architecture books in years.

The story begins with "the panorama of brown rock... peppered with ever-changing shadows and the unexpected desert plants that turn this great natural wall into a tapestry of texture and color." Then came the wealthy industrialists and Hollywood royalty who wanted vacation homes and were more or--at least initially--less amenable to modern design. Car culture and casual living morphed the international style into new silhouettes and textures fit for a modern oasis.

Swiss émigré Albert Frey designed minimalist houses "like tents staked in the desert." Richard Neutra's famous Kaufmann House has polished glass walls, flat, floating roofs, and luxury finishes, while John Lautner's Elrod House--seen in the James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever--is a futuristic concrete cave. Tract homes by William Krisel and Dan Palmer for the Alexander Company offered a mass-market modernist solution, with butterfly roofs and patterned concrete block walls crisply defined by the intense sun.

By the early '50s, local projects also included civic and commercial buildings. Memorable nonresidential projects range from William Cody's Huddle Springs restaurant, with its bold angled beams, canvas awnings, and open plan, to Victor Gruen's City National Bank, on which a sweeping curved roof reminiscent of Le Corbusier's Ronchamp chapel meets the desert opulence of gold filigree. --Cathy Curtis

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