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Palm Springs Architecture, the Best of Southern California Design

Palm Springs Architecture, the Best of Southern California Design



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Palm Springs, California combines scenic mountain views with an eclectic mix of Spanish Revival and mid-20th century modern buildings. Browse for pictures of architectural landmarks, famous houses, and interesting examples of Mid-century Modernism and Desert Modernism in Palm Springs.

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Alexander Home

Palm Springs Pictures: Alexander Home in the Twin Palms Development Alexander Home in the Twin Palms Neighborhood, Palm Springs, California. Photo © Jackie Craven

When the Alexander Construction Company came to Palm Springs in 1955, the father and son team had already built housing developments in Los Angeles, California. Working with several architects, they constructed more than 2,500 homes in Palm Springs and established a modernist style that was imitated throughout the United States. Simply, they became known as Alexander Houses. The house shown here is in the Twin Palms development (formerly known as Royal Desert Palms), constructed in 1957.

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Alexander Steel House

Palm Springs Pictures: Steel House Built by the Alexander Construction Company Between 1961 and 1962, the Alexander Construction Company set a new tone for prefab housing with several steel houses in Palm Springs, California. Donald Wexler, architect. Photo: Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism

Working with Richard Harrison, architect Donald Wexler had designed many school buildings using new approaches to steel construction. Wexler believed that the same methods could be used to build stylish and affordable homes. The Alexander Construction company contracted Wexler to design prefab steel houses for a tract neighborhood in Palm Springs, California. The one shown here is at 330 East Molino Road.

History of Steel Houses:

Donald Wexler and the Alexander Construction Company were not the first to envision houses made of steel. In 1929, architect Richard Neutra built the steel-framed Lovell House. Many other twentieth century architects, from Albert Frey to Charles and Ray Eames, experimented with metal construction. However, these sophisticated houses were expensive custom designs, and they were not made using prefabricated metal parts.

During the 1940s, businessman and inventor Carl Strandlund launched a business making steel homes in factories, like cars. His company, the Lustron Corporation, shipped some 2,498 Lustron Steel Homes throughout the United States. The Lustron Corporation went bankrupt in 1950.

Alexander Steel Homes were much more sophisticated than Lustron Homes. Architect Donald Wexler combined prefab construction techniques with upscale modernist ideas. But, the rising cost of the prefabricated building parts made the Alexander Steel Homes impractical. Only seven were actually built.

Nevertheless, the steel houses that Donald Wexler designed inspired similar projects across the country, including a few experimental houses by real estate developer Joseph Eichler.

Where to Find Alexander Steel Houses:

  • 290 Simms Road, Palm Springs, California
  • 300 and 330 East Molino Road, Palm Springs, California
  • 3100, 3125, 3133, and 3165 Sunny View Drive, Palm Springs, California
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The Royal Hawaiian Estates

Palm Springs Pictures: The Royal Hawaiian Estates Royal Hawaiian Estates, Palm Springs, California. Photo © Daniel Chavkin, courtesy Royal Hawaiian Estates

Architects Donald Wexler and Richard Harrison combined modernist ideas with Polynesian themes when they designed the Royal Hawaiian Estates condominium complex at 1774 South Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, California.

Constructed in 1961 and 1962 when tiki architecture was in fashion, the complex has 12 buildings with 40 condominium units on five acres. Wooden tiki ornaments and other playful details give the buildings and the grounds a fanciful tropical flavor.

Tiki styling takes on abstract shapes at the Royal Hawaiian Estates. The rows of bright orange buttresses (known as flying-sevens) that support the patio roofs are said to represent the stabilizers on outrigger canoes. Throughout the complex, steep peaks, projecting rooflines, and exposed beams suggest the architecture of tropical huts.

In February 2010, the Palm Springs City Council voted 4-1 to designate the Royal Hawaiian Estates a historic district. Owners who repair or restore their condo units can apply for tax benefits.

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Bob Hope House

Palm Springs Pictures: Bob Hope House The Bob Hope house in Palm Springs, California. 1979. John Lautner, architect. Photo © Jackie Craven

Bob Hope is remembered for movies, comedy, and hosting the Academy Awards. But in Palm Springs he was known for his real estate investments.

And, of course, golf.

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House With Butterfly Roof

House With Butterfly Roof House with butterfly roof, Palm Springs, California. Photo © Jackie Craven

Butterfly-shaped roofs like this one were a characteristic of the mid-century modernism Palm Springs became famous for.

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Coachella Valley Savings and Loan

Palm Springs Pictures: Coachella Valley Savings and Loan (now Washington Mutual) Coachella Valley Savings and Loan (now Washington Mutual) in Palm Springs, California. 1960. E. Stewart Williams, architect. Photo © Jackie Craven

Constructed in 1960, the Washington Mutual building at 499 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, California is a landmark example of mid-century modernism by Palm Springs architect E. Stewart Williams. The bank was originally called Coachella Valley Savings and Loan.

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Community Church

The Community Church in Palm Springs. Photo © Jackie Craven

Designed by Charles Tanner, the Community Church in Palm Springs was dedicated in 1936. Harry. J. Williams later designed a northern addition.

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Del Marcos Hotel

The Del Marcos Hotel in Palm Springs, California. Photo © Jackie Craven

Architect William F. Cody designed the The Del Marcos Hotel in Palm Springs. It was completed in 1947.

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Edris House

Palm Springs Pictures: Edris House The Edris House in Little Tuscany Estates, 1030 W. Cielo Drive, Palm Springs, California. E. Stewart Williams, architect. 1954. Photo: Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism

A classic example of Desert Modernism, the stone-walled Edris house at 1030 West Cielo Drive, Palm Springs, California appears to rise organically from the rocky landscape. Built in 1954, this home was designed for Marjorie and William Edris by the prominent Palm Springs architect, E. Stewart Williams.

Local stone and Douglas Fir were used for the walls of the Edris House. The swimming pool was installed before the house was built so that the construction equipment wouldn't damage the landscape.

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Elrod House Interior

Palm Springs Pictures: Circular Room in the Elrod House The Arthur Elrod House in Palm Springs, California. John Lautner, architect. 1968. Photo: Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism

The Arthur Elrod House in Palm Springs, California was used in the James Bond film, Diamonds are Forever. Built in 1968, the house was designed by architect John Lautner.

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Indian Canyons Golf Club

Indian Canyons Golf Club, Palm Springs, California. Photo © Jackie Craven

The Indian Canyons Golf Club in Palm Springs is a landmark example of "Tiki" architecture.

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Frey House II

Palm Springs Pictures: Frey House II Frey House II. 1963. Albert Frey, architect. Photo © Jackie Craven

Completed in 1963, Albert Frey's International Style Frey House II is set in the craggy mountainside overlooking Palm Springs, California.

Frey House II now owned by the Palm Springs Art Museum. The house is not normally open to the public, but tours are sometimes offered during special events such as Palm Springs Modernism Week.

For a rare look inside, see our Frey House II Photo Tour.

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Kaufmann House

Palm Springs Pictures: Kaufmann House Kaufmann House in Palm Springs, California. 1946. Richard Neutra, architect. Photo © Jackie Craven

Designed by architect Richard Neutra, the Kaufmann House at 470 West Vista Chino, Palm Springs, California helped establish a style that became known as Desert Modernism.

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The Miller House

Palm Springs Pictures: The Miller House Miller House by Richard Neutra. Photo © Flickr Member Ilpo's Sojourn

2311 North Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, California

Constructed in 1937, the Miller House by architect Richard Neutra is a landmark example of Desert Modernism the International Style. The glass and steel home is composed of taut plane surfaces with no ornamentation.

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Oasis Hotel

Palm Springs Pictures: Oasis Hotel and Commercial Building Oasis Hotel and Tower, located behind the Oasis Commercial Building, in Palm Springs, California. Photo © Jackie Craven

Lloyd Wright, son of the famous Frank Lloyd Wright, designed the Art Deco Oasis Hotel and Tower, located behind the Oasis Commercial Building designed by E. Stewart Williams. The hotel at 121 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, California was built in 1925, and the commercial building in 1952.

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Palm Springs Airport

Palm Springs Pictures: Palm Springs International Airport Main Terminal Building Palm Springs Airport Main Terminal, Palm Springs, California. Photo: Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism

Designed by architect Donald Wexler, the main terminal of Palm Springs International Airport has a unique tensile structured canopy, conveying a sense of lightness and flight.

The airport has gone through many changes since 1965, when Donald Wexler first worked on the project.

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Palm Springs Art Museum

Palm Springs Pictures: Palm Springs Art Museum (or, Desert Museum) The Palm Springs Art Museum, formerly known as the Palm Springs Desert Museum, Palm Springs, California. 1976. E. Stewart Williams, architect. Photo © Jackie Craven

101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs, California

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Palm Springs City Hall

Palm Springs City Hall City Hall in Palm Springs, California. Photo © Jackie Craven

Architects Albert Frey, John Porter Clark, Robson Chambers, and E. Stewart Williams worked on the design for the Palm Springs City Hall. Construction began in 1952.

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Ship of the Desert

Palm Springs Pictures: Ship of the Desert Steamline Moderne Home Ship of the Desert, a Streamline Moderne home in Palm Springs, California. 1936. Wilson and Webster, architects. Photo © Jackie Craven

Resembling a ship wedged into the mountainside, Ship of the Desert is a hallmark example of the Streamline Moderne, or Art Moderne, style. The house at 1995 Camino Monte, off Palm Canyon and La Verne Way, Palm Springs, California was built in 1936 but was destroyed in a fire. The new owners rebuilt Ship of the Desert according to plans drafted by the original architects, Wilson and Webster.

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Sinatra House

Palm Springs Pictures: Home of Frank Sinatra Twin Palms Estate (1947) in Palm Springs, CA, designed by E. Stewart Williams for Frank Sinatra. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Archive Photos Collection/Getty Images

Built in 1946, the Frank Sinatra home at Twin Palm Estates, 1148 Alejo Road, Palm Springs, California was designed by the prominent Palm Springs architect E. Stewart Williams.

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St. Theresa Catholic Church

St. Theresa Catholic Church, Palm Springs, California. Photo © Jackie Craven

Architect William Cody designed the St. Theresa Catholic Church in 1968.

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Swiss Miss House

Palm Springs Pictures: Swiss Miss Style House Swiss Miss style house, Palm Springs, California. Photo: Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism

Draftsman Charles Dubois designed this chalet-like "Swiss Miss" home for the Alexander Construction Company. The home on Rose Avenue is one of 15 Swiss Miss homes in the Vista Las Palmas neighborhood of Palm Springs, California.

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Tramway Gas Station

Palm Springs Pictures: Tramway Gas Station, now the Vistors Center The Tramway Gas Station became a landmark of mid-century modernism. The building is now the visitors center for Palm Springs, California. Albert Frey and Robson Chambers, architects. 1963. Photo: Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism

Designed by Albert Frey and Robson Chambers, the Tramway Gas Station at 2901 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, California became a landmark of mid-century modernism. The building is now the Palm Springs Visitors Center.

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Aerial Tramway Alpine Station

Palm Springs Pictures: Aerial Tramway Alpine Station Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Alpine Station. 1961-1963. E. Stewart Williams, architect. Photo © Jackie Craven

The Aerial Tramway Alpine Station at the top of the Tram in Palm Springs, California was designed by prominent architect E. Stewart Williams and constructed between 1961 and 1963.

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Spanish Revival House

Palm Springs Pictures: Spanish Revival House Spanish Revival home in Palm Springs, California. Photo © Jackie Craven

Always a favorite… the inviting Spanish Revival homes of southern California.

References