Dwell on Design: Palm Springs

Dwell on Design: Palm Springs

Dec 6, 2006

This past weekend, we were able to squeeze in a quick trip to Palm Springs to check out the Dwell On Design conference. Despite some terrible traffic on the 60/215 freeways- we managed to make it to the recently opened Hotel Zoso, and get in on a good chunk of Saturday's morning presentation of "Visions of Utopia." Four speakers, including Alan Hess, Gwendolyn Wright, Alastair Gordon, and Peter Moruzzi, shared insights into the history of modern architecture and its relationship to Palm Springs and surrounding desert areas.

Peter Moruzzi, who currently heads up the Palm Springs Modern Committee, presented some great examples of modern non-residential structures, many of which are gone, but also many that are still around today. He explained that there were three main issues that the architects had to deal with, which shaped the look of many of the buildings and directly affected the material usage. These being: the sun (ie. using lots of deep overhangs), the views (ie. utilizing lots of glass), and the weather (incorporating lots of sunscreens, etc...) Alan Hess, an author of many books about PS modernism, shared some more examples. He also added that the car culture that was booming at the time, really influenced the creation of many of the buildings and inspired many architects. He also stressed that we need to broaden our perception of "mid century", because it wasn't all "post-and-beam" and clean lines. There was also a lot of other movements going on, including more organic forms. He showed a few examples that are still around in Palm Springs today.

Afterwards, there was an open forum for questions, where issues of preservation vs. new developments were brought up. There was an interesting (if not a little awkward) moment during the discussion, when renowned photographer Julius Schulman, who happened to be in the audience, made a comment to remember the human aspect about these modern homes (ie. that real people lived in them), and to not get too caught up in all this "talk talk talk" about modernism.

Overall, a really good lecture with lots of insights to one of So Cal's greatest treasures. Unfortunately, I couldn't stay for the events on Sunday, which was going to be the best part: the house tours. The big buzz was that one of them included the famous house that was used in the now infamous "Brangelina"/W magazine shoot. If anyone was there on Sunday or any of the other days, please share your thoughts!

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