Desert Modernism and Palm Springs



Since the early 1920’s, Palm Springs has long since been known as a mecca for modern architecture and design.  But what exactly is desert modernism and how did it originate?

“Architects in southern California and the American Southwest adapted ideas from the European Bauhaus movement to the warm climate and arid terrain.

Desert Modernism was a mid-twentieth century approach to modernism that capitalized on the sunny skies and warm climate of southern California and American Southwest. With expansive glass and streamlined styling, Desert Modernism was a regional approach to International Style architecture.

Rocks, trees, and other landscape features were often incorporated into the design.

Characteristics of Desert Modernism:

  • Expansive glass walls and windows
  • Dramatic rooflines
  • Wide overhangs
  • Steel and plastic combined with wood and stone
  • Open floor plans
  • Outdoor living spaces incorporated into the overall design

Architects Associated With Desert Modernism:

  • William F. Cody
  • Albert Frey
  • John Lautner
  • Richard Neutra
  • Donald Wexler
  • E. Stewart Williams

As the entertainment industry grew in Los Angeles during the 1900’s, Palm Springs quickly grew into a popular getaway for the wealthy startlets and socialites of Hollywood.  After World War II, the building boom grew and the city’s year round sunshine and popularity with Hollywood attracted architects to Palm Springs.”

source: abouthome

Here are some of the best ways to indulge your inner architecture buff in Palm Springs:



  • Take a self guided tour of 80 plus Mid-Century landmarks, along with in depth profiles of 12 leading architects, narrated by top architectural historians and experts using the Palm Springs Modern Committee’s Desert Modernism App available on ios and android.


  • Social Cycle Palm Springs allows you to see Palm Springs as never before!  Pedal your way through Palm Springs on a 16 passenger Dutch Style Bicycle that is powered by it’s passengers!



  • The Modern Tour, the official tour of the Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center, is an intimate curated tour with Michael Stern, author of the Rizzoli publication “Julius Shulman:Palm Springs”  of Palm Springs’ most stunning examples of Mid-Century Architecture.


  • P.S. Walk With Me, Here’s your chance to glean the history and architecture of Palm Springs with a walking tour through the best areas of the city with a born and raised Palm Springs Resident!


  • Bike Palm Springs Rentals, Explore Palm Springs by Bike, one of the best ways to see this fabulous city!  Bike Palm Springs allows you to rent bikes for the half day, full day, or week.  You can reserve online with pickup at your convenience.  Free maps, touring routes, locks, and helmets are provided!

* Sign up here for more information on our presence in Palm Springs!

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