When designers such as Richard Neutra, John Lautner, and Albert Frey came together with members of the Hollywood elite like Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, and Lucille Ball, they produced luxury homes nestled in bouldered hills and vacation estates located along green fairways. Palm Springs Modern
documents this 40-year architectural explosion in the California desert.
One of the more dramatic collaborations was between Los Angeles architect Quincy Jones and billionaire Walter Annenberg, erstwhile publisher and ambassador to Britain under Richard Nixon. Annenberg and his wife, Lee, commissioned the Rancho Mirage Estate house with the express purpose of entertaining such heavyweights as Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, and Ronald Reagan. Jones envisioned water and green grass on the outside--"I don't want to see one grain of sand except in the golf traps"--and an interior sympathetic to the Annenbergs' collection of impressionist art and oriental antiques. Near the end of the two-year project, Lee asked that the Japanese- and Mayan-inspired pyramidal roof be pink. So it was that pink became the signature hue of the Annenbergs' fabulous Rancho Mirage home.
Using many of the same general principles Jones employed--an open floor plan and the integration of the interior and exterior spaces--Donald Wexler and Ric Harrison's Steel Development Houses represent a very different perspective. Built almost entirely of steel, concrete, and glass, these 1,400-square-foot houses cost between $13,000 and $17,000 in 1962 and could be built in three days. They are minimal in design, aside from the butterfly ceilings, and are incredibly energy efficient. By using steel instead of wood, the buildings are expected to last for many, many years with little or no maintenance. Who would have guessed that the Bauhaus principles, which originated in Germany with Walter Gropius, would find their way to the California desert?
Author Adele Cygelman offers a succinct history beginning with the rise of desert modernity in the 1930s through to its fall from grace in the early 1970s. The photographs by David Glomb are spectacular. All together, Palm Springs Modern is a tantalizing feast of some of the very best mid-century domestic design. --Loren E. Baldwin
From Library Journal
Between 1940 and 1970, architects created a uniquely important collection of International Style houses in Palm Springs for their jet-set clientele. Now Architectural Digest editor Cygelman and photographer Glomb offer a glowing tribute to 19 of these homes, from Neutra's sublime Kaufmann House to the campy glitz of Ambassador Walter Annenberg's desert oasis. The text conveys basic historical facts but is largely a breezy, anecdotal whirlwind tour of the vacation destinations of the rich and famous. Glomb's revelatory color photos (supplemented by vintage black-and-white shots by Julius Shulman) are the chief attraction here. But even they can't make up for the absence of floor plans or an index. Buy for local interest, for collections specializing in 20th-century design, and for any library that occasionally indulges in a delectable, sure-to-circulate coffee-table volume.ADavid Soltesz, Cuyahoga Cty. P.L., Parma, OH
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.